Siderov scandal: Diplomat was threatened because she was French – ambassador
French diplomat Stephanie Dumortier was threatened precisely because she was French, Paris’s ambassador in Sofia Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes told Bulgarian National Television in a January 9 interview after the incident aboard an aircraft in which Ataka leader Volen Siderov got into a row with Dumortier.
Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov said on January 8 that his office would ask Parliament to remove Siderov’s immunity as an MP from prosecution in connection with the January 6 incident, in which Siderov allegedly threatened Dumortier on a Sofia-Varna flight before the Ataka leader and some of his MPs got into an altercation at Varna Airport with two people. In the altercation, two people, one an Interior Ministry employee, allegedly were struck by Siderov.
The French ambassador told BNT that the problem was that Dumortier was threatened because she was French, and also because she is a member of the French embassy staff.
Asked whether Dumortier had somehow provoked Siderov’s reaction, Lapeyre de Cabanes said, “I believe that there are people, who easily feel provoked and they believe that they have been provoked by the other people. I think that the problem with her was not so big, compared with the one with the other passengers, because another passenger on the board on the plane has been attacked – it was not Ms Dumortier who told me this, I read it in the newspapers.”
“The problem with this wave of nationalism is that all these parties are against Europe, against the integration of the European countries,” he said.
Lapeyre de Cabanes said that the Siderov incident would not affect Bulgarian-French relations.
He said that he believed that it would be normal in such a situation for Siderov to apologise.
However, neither Dumortier nor he had received an apology, Lapeyre de Cabanes said.
The ambassador said that about 20 years ago, when he was press attache at the French embassy, he had a meeting with Siderov, who then was editor of the Union of Democratic Forces-aligned newspaper Demokratsiya.
“I cannot remember precisely why, but after this meeting I decided that I did not want to meet him again,” Lapeyre de Cabanes said.
In 2013, there was tension after the then-French ambassador joined his German counterpart in issuing a public statement calling on the Bulgarian Socialist Party government to heed the voice of civil society after mass public protests began demanding the government’s resignation. In what was widely seen as revenge, although the government denied this, the outgoing French ambassador was not accorded the customary high state honour on leaving office. At the time, Siderov had called for revenge against the foreign ambassadors involved in the public statement.
On January 8, there was a further incident in the latest Siderov controversy when a group of Ataka members of Parliament invaded the building of Nova Televizia, trying to reach the studio of the Milen Tsvetkov evening talk show, after two anti-Siderov protesters appeared on the show, wearing Siderov masks at the outset of their interview.
Siderov, who denies wrongdoing in the incident and alleges that the episode was the result of a conspiracy against him, has been spewing a torrent of abuse against the Bulgarian media in recent days.
He denies hitting the Interior Ministry officer, but alleges that the officer hit him. On January 7, prosecutors in Varna said that both the Interior Ministry officer, Kostadin Kolev, and another person, Dimitar Bahnev, who had sought to intervene in the incident after finding Siderov’s behaviour objectionable, had bruises.
Prosecutors said on January 9 that because Parliament was not in session, the formal request to allow criminal proceedings against a member of the National Assembly was to be sent to Speaker Mihail Mikov.