Bulgaria’s anti-government protests: Police check IDs, question participants

People coming to central Sofia for anti-government protests are now routinely being told by police to show their personal identity documents while police also have been calling participants for questioning, according to media reports and posts on social networks.

The earlier months of the protests, which on November 14 mark five months since the Delyan Peevski episode was the catalyst for mass demands for the resignation of the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, saw protesters gather without any form of police intervention.

But in recent weeks, checks of identity documents have been stepped up, and by November 13, those encountering the police cordon were all being ask to show their identity cards, reports said.

There also have been reports of people being questioned by police, apparently in connection with the events of November 12 in which there were clashes between police and protesters as the latter sought to blockade members of Parliament from leaving the National Assembly building.

Luchezar Kosev told Nova Televizia that he had been summoned by police, who had arrived at 7am.

He told the local television station that what had happened was reminiscent of the practices before November 10 1989, the day of the fall from power of long-time communist dictator Todor Zhivkov.

The police had received an order to investigate what had happened at Parliament. “They asked me where I was the night before and what had happened. They showed me a picture of another protester and asked me if I know him,” he said.

Kosev said that this had happened to at least a dozen people.

Some of those arriving at the protest on the night of November 13 complained when being told by police to show their identity documents, reports said.

The night saw the continuing symbolic blockade of Parliament by anti-government protesters and university students. In contrast to the previous night, the evening of November 13 passed largely without incident, apart from the arrest in the late hours of one protester who managed to pass the new solid metal barriers. Some of those outside the barriers hit and kicked the fence in reaction, but the situation did not escalate beyond that.

Earlier, some students stuck black-and-white images of brickwork on the new barriers, wryly telling reporters that they were helping the government with its new Berlin Wall.

In a Facebook post on November 13, the “Early Rising Students” anti-government protest group said that they had been told that police were conducting checks at the entrances of Sofia and were not admitting university students.

The same day, protesters filed complaints at the Interior Ministry about some police at the protests who failed to wear the required name identification tags on their uniforms, while some were masked.

Professors from several universities sent a letter to the president, prime minister and interior minister expressing strong concern at what they called the repressive actions of law enforcement against students and other protesters, and alleged that there had been cases of arrests without detainees being informed of their rights, and that police had entered the premises of universities without permission.

The academics said that unless there was an appropriate response to their complaint, they would take up the issue of police conduct with the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Online, photographs were posted of police in the corridors of the journalism faculty of Sofia University, which is not subject to the “Occupy” protest elsewhere at the central campus of the university.

At the journalism faculty entrance, police had checked identity cards and student cards, reports said.

(Photo: protestnamreja/facebook)




The Sofia Globe staff

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