Ataka’s Siderov had been drinking before Varna Airport incident, court told
Volen Siderov had been drinking vodka and whisky ahead of a confrontation on a Sofia-Varna flight that led to charges of hooliganism and assault against the Ataka leader, Sofia City Court was told on December 17 2015.
Evidence in the trial of Siderov on the charges arising from the incidents on the flight and at Varna Airport in January 2014 was given by former Ataka member Galen Monev.
The hearing took place the same day that Bulgaria’s Parliament voted to remove Siderov’s immunity from prosecution in connection with two separate incidents.
On November 30, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov had asked Parliament to give its permission to investigate Siderov for two incidents, dating back to 2011 and 2013.
The cases in question refer to Siderov, accompanied by Ataka supporters, climbing the stage to disrupt an event in May 2011 in Batak, in southern Bulgaria, commemorating the anniversary of an Ottoman massacre, and an incident in May 2013, where Siderov clashed with a reporter from nationalist television station Skat and a police officer just outside the Parliament building.
Siderov, along with fellow Ataka MP Dessislav Chukolov, already has had his immunity lifted to face charges in connection with a confrontation at a late-night alcohol and tobacco shop, and in regard to a late-night confrontation with students at the National Academy for Film and Theatre Arts in Sofia.
In regard to the Varna case, Monev told the court that on arrival at Sofia Airport, Siderov had ordered vodka with tomato juice, as did Chukolov, who also was travelling as part of the Ataka group. After the group boarded the aircraft, Siderov and Chukolov bought two bottles of alcohol, and during the flight continued to drink whisky.
During the flight, Siderov verbally attacked French cultural attache Stephanie Dumortier, and on arrival at Varna Airport, allegedly assaulted one of the passengers and hit a police officer. If convicted, Siderov could face three to five years in prison.
In the National Assembly on December 17, MPs from Ataka were not present in the House when the vote on lifting Siderov’s immunity was taken.
Yanaki Stoilov, an MP for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, said that his party was supporting the requests by the Prosecutor-General for the lifting of Siderov’s immunity, but questioned why it took two to four years for prosecutors to gather evidence to submit it to the National Assembly in support of a formal request to lift an MP’s immunity.
Asking who benefitted from these steps being taken now, years after the incidents, Stoilov said that one explanation was to keep the Ataka group “on a short leash” and another was that Ataka itself needed these events so that its leader could be seen as a martyr to an unreformed judicial system. The BSP MP said that Parliament should set up a standing committee on requests to remove MPs’ immunity.