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Bulgarian priest with marijuana faces church, but not police, probe

A 62-year-old Bulgarian Orthodox Church village priest caught with more than five kilograms of marijuana will not be prosecuted because, local police say, they do not have enough evidence to prosecute him.

The Rev. Kiril Papudov of the south-western Bulgarian mountain village of Kladentsi (population: 10) was held in 24-hour police custody after police found 5.3 kilograms of marijuana in his house and back garden.  He was released on 19 January.

A police spokesperson said Papudov had been found with marijuana three times in the past four years. Plants were growing in his garden and in nearby fields.  It was suspected the priest was selling the drug, according to Valeri Georgiev, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry in the city of Blagoevgrad.

Interviewed on 19 January by Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Papudov said, however, "I don’t use marijuana, and I don’t sell it."  He explained, "My wife has arthritis and uses it as medicine."

The television report showed sacks of the marijuana, while a police spokesperson was quoted as saying that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Papudov.  A neighbour told BNT that the marijuana plants in Papudov’s garden had been clearly visible.

A spokesperson for the bishopric said, however, the matter would be investigated, and if Papudov was found guilty by a church inquiry, he could be prevented from carrying out his duties.

Bulgaria’s Focus Radio Pirin on 18 January reported that priests from the area described Papudov’s possession of marijuana as "outrageous" and said that he should be disbarred from the priesthood.

Under a Bulgarian law approved in March 2004, those possessing a large quantity of marijuana can be sentenced from three to 15 years in prison.

(c) Ecumenical News International