Sofia City Court ruled on January 29 to find Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who was interior minister in Boiko Borissov’s first government between July 2009 and February 2013, not guilty on charges of failure to exercise oversight over the use wiretaps by the Interior Ministry during his time in office.
The verdict came as no surprise, as lead prosecutor Chavdar Angelov said earlier in the day that the prosecutor’s office was no longer pressing charges. Angelov said that legislative changes to the Interior Ministry Act passed by the previous legislature in 2014 – when GERB, Borissov’s party in which Tsvetanov is deputy leader, was in opposition – removed the legal grounds for prosecuting Tsvetanov and four other former senior officials in the interior ministry’s department in charge of wire-tapping.
Judge Petar Gounchev, who presided over the case, said that the legislative changes were not the only reason for the verdict, as quoted by specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg. Gounchev said that he could not give further details about the reasoning for his verdict because of the nature of the case – since it dealt with classified information, all the lawsuit’s hearings were held behind closed doors.
Tsvetanov and four other officials were charged in June 2013 following an investigation by prosecutors, which found that lax controls over police eavesdropping created an environment ripe for abuse. At the same, however, the prosecutors said that they found no evidence that such abuse had been carried out, as claimed by an anonymous tip-off sent to the media in March 2013.
The tip-off alleged that illegal electronic surveillance had targeted – at Tsvetanov orders – a range of government and opposition politicians, business people, members of the judiciary, protest leaders and other public figures including Bulgaria’s European Commissioner (for a full list of the people alleged to have been eavesdropped on, see The Sofia Globe report here).
Prosecutors have pursued three separate lawsuits against Tsvetanov since he left office, all relating to his actions as interior minister. The verdict in the eavesdropping case is the second acquittal, with the Sofia City Court also finding him not guilty on embezzlement charges.
In the third lawsuit, Tsvetanov was sentenced to four years imprisonment for refusing to authorise wire-tapping of as part of a police investigation.
The two earlier verdicts, in the embezzlement and refusal to authorise wire-taps, are both being appealed and were heard by the Sofia Appellate Court earlier this month, with rulings expected in the coming weeks.
(Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Photo: gerb.bg)