Bulgarian socialist leader Stanishev testifies on wiretapping allegations

Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev was to be questioned by prosecutors on April 24 about allegations he submitted of illegal electronic eavesdropping by Boiko Borissov’s centre-right government, while on the same day a European Parliament committee was to decide whether to debate the allegations at EU level.

After Stanishev put the allegations, that state and political leaders along with business people had been the subject of unlawful eavesdropping, to Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, a two-week initial investigation by a special team of prosecutors found that prerequisites existed at the Interior Ministry for illegal use of wiretapping, although prosecutors did not say that they had found evidence of illegal surveillance.

However, as a result of the initial investigation, four officials face criminal charges.

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.

The trio failed in their duties to create the necessary guidelines for the use of surveillance equipment, prosecutors said earlier. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to prison terms ranging between one and eight years.

Katsarov has also been charged with document fraud under article 311, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code, prosecutors said. The article in question reads that “an official who, within the scope of his duties, draws an official document certifying untrue circumstances or statements with the purpose of using this document as a proof of these circumstances or statements shall be punished by imprisonment of up to five years.”

Radko Dimitrov, the head of a unit at the directorate, was charged with destruction of evidence, an offence that carries a possible sentence ranging between one and five years’ imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to 1000 leva.

On April 24, the European Parliament’s committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs was to decide whether to put the allegations of illegal wiretapping on its agenda. According to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio, it appeared that most of the committee would be in favour of a discussion of the issue because of the implication of violations of human rights and European standards by a Bulgarian government.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, interior minister in Borissov’s government from 2009 to 2013, has denied all allegations of illegal use of wiretapping and has said that the allegations are being exploited to seek to eliminate him from his role as GERB campaign chief in the May 12 2013 elections.

At the European Parliament, GERB MEP Andrei Kovachev said that it was not acceptable to put the eavesdropping issue on the agenda, because the investigation was not finished. He said that some MEPs were willing to embarrass Bulgaria and ruin the country’s credibility for political gain, acting on rumours and a continuing investigation into anonymous allegations.

Recent polls show GERB holding a lead of a few percentage points over the socialists ahead of the May 12 elections, but it is an open question whether Borissov’s party could pull off a victory decisive enough to return to government.

(Photo of Stanishev: bsp.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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