Tsvetanov should quit politics, rival parties say after eavesdropping report

GERB election campaign chief Tsvetan Tsvetanov should withdraw from politics, given his promise to do so should the Interior Ministry be found to have been involved in illegal electronic surveillance, rival parties said after prosecutors announced criminal proceedings against four senior officials from the specialist department in charge of wiretapping.

Three of the four officials are facing charges of dereliction of duty in failing to create proper guidelines for the use of surveillance equipment. A fourth official is facing charges of criminal obstruction after allegedly destroying evidence and seeking to mislead prosecutors participating in the investigation into allegations of illegal eavesdropping.

A team of Bulgarian prosecutors that investigated allegations by socialist leader Sergei Stanishev of illegal electronic surveillance told a news conference on April 15 that lax controls over police eavesdropping created an environment ripe for abuse. The prosecutors said that they also found evidence of an attempted cover-up.

When he handed the matter to Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov on March 28, Stanishev said that he had received a document alleging that there had been illegal eavesdropping of prominent politicians, including the current and former president, and business people while Tsvetanov was interior minister.

Tsvetanov, deputy leader of GERB, was interior minister from the time the centre-right party was elected into office in 2009 until Boiko Borissov’s resignation as prime minister took effect in March 2013. Tsvetanov has been appointed to lead the party’s election campaign, which is directed towards returning Borissov to office as the head of government.

On April 15, Stanishev said that Tsvetanov was directly responsible and had said that he would resign if the allegations were confirmed. “I think that there are sufficient grounds for him to get out of politics, out of the GERB candidate lists and not participate in any way,” Stanishev said.

Stanishev said that findings of the prosecutors were clear and “shocking”. He said that apparently there had been misuse of technology available to the interior ministry. There were issues that remained to be examined and clarified, the socialist leader said. Stanishev said that there had not only been an abuse of power by the interior ministry in the government but this had been translated by Tsvetanov into a system of abuse of power.

In the past four years, there had been a practice of illegal eavesdropping on Bulgarian citizens, Stanishev said. In no other European country would such practices be acceptable, he said.

Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said that Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov should be “more daring” and open pre-trial proceedings against the person liable under the law on special surveillance, the interior minister – meaning Tsvetanov.

Mestan said that former agriculture minister Miroslav Naidenov had withdrawn from the GERB candidate list because of allegations against him (allegations which Naidenov denies) and the MRF leader said that Borissov should now apply the same principle to Tsvetanov, removing him as GERB election headquarters chief and from the list of GERB candidate MPs.

Ultra-nationalist party Ataka also called for Tsvetanov to resign as GERB campaign chief, withdraw from the election campaign and for an investigation into Tsvetanov to be launched.

Meglena Kouneva, leader of the Bulgaria for Citizens party, said that prosecutors had “confirmed all our worst fears. It has already become clear that we live in a society of fear and tyranny”.

Prosecutors should not stop their investigation with officials but should continue on to former prime minister Borissov and former interior minister Tsvetanov, Kouneva said.

 (Photo of Tsvetanov: gerb.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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