Bulgarian PM, Prosecutor-General speak on eavesdropping controversy

The political furore unleashed by the findings of an investigation by a team of senior prosecutors into alleged illegal electronic eavesdropping by state officials has not surprised Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, given that Bulgaria is in the throes of election campaigning ahead of the May 12 vote.

But while politicians are conducting their election campaigns, “we have to do our job,” Tsatsarov was quoted as saying on April 16 by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio.

The findings of the investigation, prompted by allegations by Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev that there had been widespread unlawful eavesdropping on top state officials, politicians and business people, have led to the suspension of two officials. In total, four currently face pre-trial proceedings, most for dereliction of duty and failing to set clear rules on the use of eavesdropping, and one for allegedly obstructing the prosecutors’ investigation.

At the centre of the controversy is Tsvetan Tsvetanov, under whose stewardship as interior ministry the irregularities are said to have taken place, and who currently heads the election headquarters for Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party.

After the prosecutors announced their findings on April 15, noting that further investigation had to be done including trying to recover deleted material, rival politicians called on Tsvetanov to keep his promise to withdraw from politics if it was established that there had been irregularities while he was interior minister.

Tsvetanov, backed by Borissov, has hit back at GERB’s political rivals and there has been angry talk about the prosecutors’ office being manipulated for partisan political gain.

Tsatsarov said on April 16 that no deadlines for completing the investigation had been set. As it has turned out everything is in the hands of experts – both Bulgarian and foreign – who have to try to restore deleted recordings and answer the question whether the people mentioned in Stanishev’s allegations were tapped.

Tsatsarov said that he was not surprised by the political reactions after the April 15 news conference.

“I have never doubted the case will be politically used, but if we are afraid that what we do will be politically used,” it means we should not do anything, Tsatsarov said and asked:

“What do you want – to wait three years, one year, the next Prosecutor-General?”

Marin Raykov, Prime Minister of the caretaker government that will remain in office pending parliamentary approval of a cabinet after the election, said on April 16 that he did not think that his own government had been eavesdropped on.

Raykov said that the relevant bodies should be left to do their job.

He said that he had insisted that Radko Dimitrov, chief of a department at the specialist directorate for operative and technical operations, and Sergei Katsarov, head of the directorate, were suspended.

The suspensions were announced after Interior Minister Petya Purvanova initiated disciplinary proceedings against the two. Dimitrov is alleged to have left his 50th birthday party to attempt to destroy records after the investigation was announced, and succeeding in doing so the following day.

(Photo of PM Marin Raykov: government.bg)




The Sofia Globe staff

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