Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on November 5 to allow the prosecution of Ataka’s Volen Siderov and Dessislav Chukolov on charges of hooliganism in connection with an incident on October 12 at a late-night liquor store.
The National Assembly agreed to a request by Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov for the removal of the two MPs’ immunity from prosecution. Parliament will vote in coming days on a further request for Siderov and Chukolov to face criminal charges in connection with a separate incident, at the National Theatre and Film Arts Academy.
Those voting in favour of the removal of the immunity of the two included Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the centre-right Reformist Bloc, the nationalist Patriotic Front, the Bulgarian Democratic Centre and Georgi Purvanov’s ABC, adding up to 144 votes for.
Ataka’s 11 MPs voted against. There was one abstention, from a BSP MP.
Siderov, who denies wrongdoing and claims that the two were acting against contraband (police found none) said that “today was a good day for the Bulgarian drug mafia”. After the October 12 incident at the shop in Sofia’s Rakovski Street, eyewitnesses said that the two Ataka MPs appeared to be under the influence of liquor, according to prosecutors.
In regard to the incident at the theatre academy, involving Siderov and others from Ataka in a confrontation that resulted in a massive police deployment to escort the Ataka leader from the scene to protect him from an angry crowd, the Prosecut0r-General is seeking the arrest of Siderov and Chukolov and their prosecution on charges of hooliganism and intimidation. An all-party ad hoc committee of Parliament already has recommended that the National Assembly agree to this.
The public antics of Siderov, Chukolov and other members of the pro-Russian minority party, one of the two smallest in the National Assembly, have led to discussions initiated by GERB on changing the constitution to cut back the protection of MPs from prosecution solely to their activities while in the National Assembly. Critics have accused Siderov of systematically abusing his parliamentary privilege and bringing disgrace to the National Assembly.