Bulgaria’s National Assembly will decide on the Prosecutor-General’s request to remove the immunity from prosecution of Ataka leader Volen Siderov and fellow MP Desislav Chukulov only after October 28, when Parliament resumes following the October 15 municipal elections.
Prosecutors want to lay charges of hooliganism against Siderov and Chukulov in connection with a late-night incident on October 9 in which the two far-right MPs were involved in a confrontation with shopkeepers and the owner of an all-night alcohol and tobacco shop.
Preliminary investigations by the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office found that the two MPs disturbed the peace, behaved indecorously and showed obvious disrespect to the public. Prosecutors said that Siderov and Chukulov resisted police officers, who were carrying out their duty to protect public order, and the behaviour of the two Ataka MPs was characterised by exceptional cynicism and impudence. It was also established that both Siderov and Chukulov each had caused slight injuries to two police officers. Eyewitnesses interviewed by prosecutors said that both MPs appeared to be drunk, media reports said.
Procedurally, a request to remove the immunity from prosecution that an MP has by law requires a vote in Parliament. When Parliament is not in session for statutory reasons, the immunity may be removed by decree of the Speaker of the National Assembly. An MP may also voluntarily give up his or her immunity.
Siderov has voluntarily given up his immunity in the past, in the current case to face criminal charges related to an incident involving an in-flight confrontation with a French diplomat while on an aircraft from Sofia to Varna, which was followed by the alleged assault of a police officer at Varna Airport.
However, the removal of immunity applies only to one specific case at a time. This means that a specific separate application had to be made regarding the October 9 Rakovski Street incident. Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov tabled the request in Parliament on October 12.
Siderov, meanwhile, has said that he would take legal action against Interior Ministry chief secretary Georgi Kostov, Ataka leader Volen Siderov said he will sue the Interior Ministry’s Chief Secretary, Georgi Kostov, Sofia City Prosecutor Hristo Dinev and the Sofia Chief of Police, Mladen Marinov.
Siderov rejected allegations that he and Chukulov had committed acts of hooliganism. He said that he would respond to a request to remove his immunity with his own request to remove the immunity from prosecution held by the Prosecutor-General.
Siderov insisted that the shop had been selling contraband and illegal drugs (on the night, a search by economic crimes squad police found nothing) and he said that the police and the media were “covering up” the contraband and illegal drug trade in Sofia.
On October 13, in an interview with local television station bTV, Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Roumyana Buchvarova said that for her, it was unacceptable for an MP – even with immunity – to impinge on a police officer.
Buchvarova said that the ministry had evidence of such interference, including four written statements from eyewitnesses.
“Everyone who was present, presents a different picture from that of Siderov,” she said.
Several police teams had been deployed to the site of the incident. Buchvarova said that she thought that the behaviour of the Interior Ministry officials had been appropriate and they had sought to prevent the incident widening.
In the case of someone with immunity, the possibilities for police action were limited, Buchvarova said.
Buchvarova said that many Interior Ministry people had been involved with the case, including her. “Including Mr Chukulov, who rang me at 1.30am, but I did not speak to him – this is not the right way,” she said.
A responsible MP who had indications that smuggling was going on would report them to the appropriate authorities, Buchvarova said, adding that Bulgaria had the figures to show that it was producing very good results in the fight against contraband.
Asked whether the actions of Siderov were intentional, Buchvarova said: “The fact is that in this way Siderov and his party fellows make the news and become topical for a number of days. From 2006, periodically close to elections there are cases in which he provoked the police”.