A week after news broke of the ructions involving Volen Siderov and a group of Ataka MPs on a flight from Sofia to Varna, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Sergei Stanishev broke his silence on the incident that has led to a Prosecutor-General’s request for the lifting of Siderov’s immunity from prosecution.
Speaking at a BSP news conference on January 14, Stanishev – who has been criticised by political rivals for remaining on the Siderov case – said that he would advise the Ataka leader, as a member of Parliament, to take the initiative himself to renounce his immunity.
The January 6 incident reportedly began with a verbal clash between Siderov and a French diplomat and had a sequel at Varna Airport where the Ataka group were involved in a dispute with two people, both of whom allegedly were assaulted.
Siderov has denied any wrongdoing and has alleged the entire sequence of events was the result of a frame-up concocted by centre-right opposition party GERB.
Stanishev said that his party always had supported votes to withdraw MPs’ immunity from prosecution.
Earlier, it emerged that the BSP parliamentary group was to meet on the evening of January 14, on the eve of the scheduled first sitting of Parliament after winter holiday recess, to discuss its position on the Prosecutor-General’s application to lift Siderov’s immunity.
Stanishev said that he would advise the parliamentary group to observe the deadline in which the MP was allowed to consider whether to give up on one’s immunity on one’s own initiative and then “if necessary, the National Assembly should respond to this case”.
Stanishev said that everyone was equal before the law and an MP’s immunity against prosecution should not be used as shield against the law, to avoid investigation and a trial.
Separately, unconfirmed media reports on January 14 said that the scheduled sitting of Parliament the following day would not go ahead because of a planned boycott by Ataka Mps.
United States ambassador Marcie Ries, meanwhile, told reporters on January 14 that she could not comment on the Siderov case.
A diplomat was merely an observer of events, local media quoted Ries as saying.
“I cannot really have an opinion about who is right in this case, but each case is closely monitored,” she said.
Developments in the case would show much about the rule of law in Bulgaria, Ries was quoted as saying.
A few days after the latest Siderov controversy erupted, an Ataka group was outside the US embassy in Sofia on January 10, demanding the removal of a memorial plaque to US airmen who died during the World War 2 bombing of the Bulgarian capital, at a time when Sofia had allied with Hitler’s Berlin.
Siderov, at a January 12 news conference, said that one of the reasons for what he called a media “smear campaign” against his party was its stance against Bulgaria being subject to what he described as US colonialism.