Assassination attempt of Bulgarian gang leader prompts call from senior judge for security zones at court buildings

The President of Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation, Lazar Gruev, has called for security zones about the country’s court buildings, a call issued in reaction to the assassination attempt against convicted drug gang leader Zlato “Baretata” Ivanov.

Gruev said that in 1996, the Cabinet had ordered that this be done, and he said that all responsible authorities should do their job so that the court could do its work in peace and people could be able to walk safely on Vitosha Boulevard.

Ivanov is in intensive care after being hit four times by bullets fired from an automatic rifle from a building opposite the Vitosha Boulevard entrance of the Sofia court building on January 29. He had been arriving for a hearing in his appeal against an eight-year jail sentence.

Gruev’s call also came in response to numerous recent disruptions of the work of Bulgaria’s courts because of telephoned bomb warnings. Courts in Sofia and other cities have had to suspend their work while bomb squads checked the buildings.

Of the assassination attempt against Ivanov, Gruev said that it been “a brazen act of assault not only against this man but also against all of us, Bulgarian citizens”.

He said that he had discussed the security issue with the Prosecutor-General, Sotir Tsatsarov, on January 30.

Gruev said that the law specified that the Ministry of Justice was responsible for the security of court buildings while the Interior Ministry was responsible for the overall security of the state, including identifying areas that should be security zones in terms of the earlier Cabinet decision.

Appearing on a television talk show on January 30, opposition socialist MP and former interior minister Mihail Mikov criticised the centre-right Bulgarian government’s performance against crime, adding that people had a “sense of chaos and a return to the mutri (organised crime thugs) years”. Mikov said that people should buy bulletproof vests and armoured helmets in case they found themselves in the line of fire.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said on January 30 that the investigation into the shooting of Ivanov was “at an advanced stage”.

Investigators were following all possible lines of inquiry, including that a second team of shooters had been in place in case Ivanov used a different entrance to the court.

According to Tsvetanov, theories being explored as possible motives for the shooting included a settling of scores over financial issues and a contest for control of the illegal drug market in Bulgaria.

(Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/




The Sofia Globe staff

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