Bulgaria’s SJC suspends judge at centre of eavesdropping row

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) decided on February 19 to suspend Vladimira Yaneva, head of the Sofia City Court, for the duration of the investigation into her alleged actions as part of a wire-tapping operation that exceeded the limits set by law.

Yaneva is under investigation for allegedly authorising the use of covert surveillance in “Operation Worms” for 300 days, a period well in excess of that allowed by law, but no charges have been pressed against her. (The row about “Operation Worms” began with claims – denied by top officials including Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov – that under the now-departed Plamen Oresharski administration, the State Agency for National Security and the Interior Ministry had been involved in illegal covert surveillance of anti-government protesters.)

The request for Yaneva’s suspension came from Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov at the weekly scheduled sitting of the SJC. The council offered to hear Yaneva’s case, but the judge sent a written defence instead, specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg reported. The SJC vote to suspend Yaneva was unanimous, according to the report.

Yaneva was also facing disciplinary proceedings, launched by newly-elected Supreme Court of Cassation chief Lozan Panov and Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov, on the unrelated issue of alleged breaches in the random distribution of cases to judges at the Sofia City Court.

The allegations against Yaneva and her deputy Bogdana Zhelyavska are not new, but calls from Sofia City Court judges and the judges association for disciplinary proceedings against the two previously went unheeded by the SJC.

This is not the first time that Yaneva has become embroiled in controversy, with the very first public row coming at the time she was appointed as Sofia City Court chief in May 2011. A former junior prosecutor whose career as a judge spanned only four years at that point, Yaneva was preferred to her more experienced rival in the race, with the suspicion being that she was appointed because she was a close family friend of then-interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

In 2012, she was once again at the forefront of another row, which saw the head of the judges union Miroslava Todorova – a harsh critic of the SJC and Tsvetanov – sacked by the SJC for delaying the filing of verdict reasoning after issuing a ruling. At the same time, Yaneva, who had similar delays in dozens of cases and also appeared to be in conflict of interest in one court case closely monitored by the European Commission, was only handed a caution.

(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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