Bulgarian police admits bus window broken from inside during protester clashes – updated

Bulgarian police acknowledged on July 29 that the broken window on the bus that attempted to extract MPs and ministers through the protester blockade last week had been smashed from inside the bus.

Following reports in Bulgarian media on July 29 – some of them, like mass-circulation dailies Trud and 24 Chassa, quoting police statements – that it had been police officers who broke the window, the Sofia directorate of the Interior Ministry said that it was indeed someone inside the bus who broke the window, but the only Interior Ministry employee inside the bus at that time was the driver.

According to the Trud and 24 Chassa earlier reports, the police said that the window had been broken only because it was already cracked and in order to prevent the window from breaking inward and injuring the people inside.

The Sofia police directorate said that its afternoon statement was the only official position released concerning the events of that evening.

Late on July 23, the police used force for the first time since the start of the protests in mid-June to make way for the bus carrying MPs and ministers that were unable to leave the National Assembly building. About 20 people were reported injured on both sides, with rocks and empty bottles hurled at the bus, but it was unable to break through; a second attempt in the early hours of July 24 was successful.

The Sofia police directorate statement said that once the bus returned to Parliament, stones and paving bricks were found inside it. “All other details of the incident are subject to investigation and clarification by the Sofia district prosecution,” the statement said.

Some Bulgarian media interpreted the police statement as a round-about way of confirming that the MPs or ministers inside the bus were the ones who broke the window.

The bus’ broken window, as well as several other cracked ones, was frequently mentioned over the past days by ruling coalition politicians as evidence that the anti-government protests outside Parliament had become violent, claiming that it was the result of incitement from parties in opposition to the current Cabinet.

The latest developments come after a video posted on YouTube at the weekend showed the window being broken from the inside. Previously, it was assumed that a paving brick flung at the bus was the reason.

Numerous comments in social media interpreted the police silence over the intervening days, before the eyewitness footage was posted online, as yet another attempt assign the entire blame on the protesters.

Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev, in the immediate aftermath of the clashes, said that police had behaved “appropriately” and that the police would check all footage to identify those who threw bricks at MPs and police. Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, meanwhile, criticised the decision to ramrod the bus through protesters as “perhaps not the most sound tactical decision” and said that prosecutors would investigate the conduct of police, including alleged assault, in the clashes.

The footage of the window being broken on the inside appears in this YouTube video (at the 2.36 mark):

(Top photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer. A riot police shield, which was used to break the glass, was kept in place to prevent any flying objects from making it into the bus. This report has been updated with the Sofia police department statement clarifying that it only had one employee inside the bus carrying MPs and ministers during the clashes with protesters.)



The Sofia Globe staff

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