Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) ruled on June 19 to overturn the four-year jail sentence handed to former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on charges of failing to comply with a court order to wiretap a suspect.
The high court ruled that Tsvetanov’s right to a fair trial was breached because the judge in the first-instance court was not impartial. The SCC ordered a retrial of the case.
Tsvetanov was charged in July 2013 after the Prosecutor’s Office said that while in office as interior minister, Tsvetanov had declined to authorise the use of wire-taps against Orlin Todorov, head of the Veliko Turnovo unit of the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, which had prevented the collection of evidence against Todorov.
As interior minister, it was Tsvetanov’s duty to authorise the wire-taps after a court order had been issued, the prosecution said at the time.
Tsvetanov was charged under article 288 of Bulgaria’s Penal code, which says that any official “who fails to fulfil in due time the functions required by the office regarding the criminal proceedings, or in any other way frustrates such proceedings with the purpose of releasing another from a punishment due for him by a law shall be punished by imprisonment of one to six years.”
Tsvetanov was interior minister between 2009 and 2013. After leaving office, he was indicted in three separate cases on charges of embezzlement, failing to exercise oversight over the use wiretaps by the Interior Ministry, as well as failing to comply with a court order to wiretap a suspect – the latter being the only one in which he was found guilty and sentenced.
(Tsvetan Tsvetanov photo by Council of the EU)