Bulgaria’s former interior minister Tsvetanov charged in eavesdropping case

Written by on June 12, 2013 in Bulgaria - No comments

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, interior minister in the Boiko Borissov government that resigned in February, was formally charged on June 12 with failure to exercise oversight over the use wiretaps by the Interior Ministry during his time in office.

Four other officials at the operative and technical information specialised directorate of the ministry were charged in April following an investigation by prosecutors, which found that lax controls over police eavesdropping created an environment ripe for abuse.

At the same, however, the prosecutors said that they found no evidence that such abuse had been carried out, as claimed by an anonymous tip-off sent to the media in late March. The tip-off alleged that illegal electronic surveillance had targeted – at Tsvetanov orders – a range of government and opposition politicians, business people, members of the judiciary, protest leaders and other public figures including Bulgaria’s European Commissioner (for a full list of the people alleged to have been eavesdropped on, see The Sofia Globe report here).

Tsvetanov was not indicted at the same time with the other four officials – which included the current and two former heads of the ministry department in charge of wire-tapping – because of his immunity from prosecution, granted to all candidate MPs.

In May, after the new Parliament was convened, Tsvetanov put in a request to have his immunity from prosecution (this time as an MP) lifted.

Tsvetanov was charged under article 285 of the Penal Code, which says that any official that deliberately allows a subordinate to commit a crime is equally culpable for that crime. In Tsvetanov’s case, that is failure to ensure that the officials in charge of wiretapping carried out their duties – namely creating the necessary guidelines for the use of surveillance equipment.

The head of the operative and technical information specialised directorate of the Interior Ministry, Sergei Katsarov, has been charged with abuse of power that has caused major consequences (article 387, paragraph 2 of the Penal Code). His predecessors in office, Kamen Kostov and Tsvetan Ivanov, have been indicted on the same charge.

If found guilty, they could be sentenced to prison terms ranging between one and eight years – by extension, Tsvetanov faces the same penalty, if convicted.

Tsvetanov was due to be questioned by a judge on June 12, but refused to answer any questions, according to reports in Bulgarian media. Tsvetanov’s lawyer said that this was because the other defendants in the case had not been called in for questioning.

(Photo of Tsvetan Tsvetanov via gerb.bg)

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