Sofia Appellate Court ruled on September 14 to acquit former interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov on charges of failing to comply with a court order to wiretap a suspect, overturning the four-year jail sentence handed last year.
This was the second time that the appeals court heard the case this year. In February, the court upheld Tsvetanov’s sentence, but was overruled on appeal by Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC), which ordered a retrial after finding that Tsvetanov’s right to a fair trial was breached because the judge in the first-instance court was not impartial.
It was not immediately clear whether the prosecutor’s office would appeal the acquittal at the SCC.
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 failing to exercise oversight over the use wiretaps by the Interior Ministry, for which he was acquitted because of legislative amendments passed by Parliament, which meant prosecutors no longer had a case against him; failing to comply with a court order to wiretap a suspect – the only case in which he was found guilty and sentenced; and embezzlement, for which he was acquitted, but a final appeal is still pending at the SCC.
(Tsvetan Tsvetanov photo by Council of the EU.)