Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office has opened preliminary proceedings on a charge of hooliganism after Bulgarian far-right Ataka party leader Volen Siderov and MP Desislav Chukulov allegedly assaulted shop assistants and the owner of an all-night alcohol and tobacco shop in the capital city’s Rakovski Street.
Police were called to the scene of the late-night confrontation, followed by media as reports of the incident spread. Also present at the scene was Ataka MP Ilian Todorov.
According to Bulgarian National Television, the Prosecutor-General has been notified of the initial investigation. As a member of Parliament, Siderov has immunity from prosecution. Reportedly, this is why the investigation is technically against an “unknown perpetrator”.
Dozens of eyewitnesses are to be questioned about the incident.
Later on October 10, after 15 eyewitnesses had been questioned, prosecutors announced that they would request Parliament to remove the immunity of Siderov and Chukulov so that a trial on charges of hooliganism could proceed.
The three MPs said that they had gone to the shop because they had information it was selling contraband cigarettes and illegal drugs. A check by uniformed police and officers from the economic crimes squad found neither contraband nor drugs.
According to the Interior Ministry, during the incident, Chukulov hit a police officer. In the incident involving Siderov and Chukulov, a sales person and the owner of the shop allegedly also were physically assaulted.
An Interior Ministry statement said that at about 11.30pm on October 9, a report had been received that members of Parliament, “visibly intoxicated, rude and arrogant” were involved in an incident with the owners of the shop in Rakovski Street.
BTV, in its own report, showed footage of Siderov harassing its reporter.
It also showed footage that when one of the shop owners, Alexandrina Simeonova, attempted to film Siderov with her phone, he took it from her hands and threw it on the pavement. “My phone fell three to four metres behind me and then he started squeezing my elbow,” Simeonova told reporters.
Bulgarian news website Mediapool quoted an eyewitness as describing Siderov and Chukulov as being “quite drunk”.
On October 10, Ataka issued a media statement alleging that Siderov and Chukulov had been the targets rather than the perpetrators of aggression.
The incident is the latest in which Siderov has been involved in a headline-making confrontation.
In 2010, in an incident which Siderov denies, he was involved in controversy over an incident on a Lufthansa flight from Sofia to Frankfurt, during which it is alleged he behaved in unruly fashion while on the flight and insulted the cabin crew.
Siderov’s immunity from prosecution was lifted earlier in connection with a January 2014 incident in which he was involved in a confrontation with a French embassy cultural attaché on a flight from Sofia to Varna. Siderov faces charges of hooliganism in connection with the incident, which he denies.