Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office had lodged in Sofia City Court indictments against Ataka party leader Volen Siderov and Ataka MP Dessislav Chukolov in connection with an October 9 2015 late-night incident at an alcohol and tobacco shop in Sofia’s Rakovski Street, the Prosecutor’s Office said on January 18.
Siderov and Chukolov face charges of hooliganism, including grossly violating public order and expressing obvious disrespect for society, actions characterised by exceptional cynicism and impudence, and of injuring police officers, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
Detailing the incident that led to the charges, prosecutors said that on October 9, from 9.30pm to 11.30pm, Siderov and Chukolov stood in front of the shop and blocked people from entering it, obstructing access with their bodies and pushing people. A person who tried to enter the shop was hit in the face by Chukolov.
The two Ataka MPs stuffed junk into the shop sales window, kicked boxes inside the shop, and hit the window with their hands and feet, a statement by prosecutors said.
A sales person at the shop, alarmed by what was happening, called the owner who in turned called emergency number 112 and then, accompanied by his spouse, came to the shop. Uniformed police arrived soon afterwards.
The wife of the owner of the shop began to take video with her mobile phone of the actions of Siderov and Chukolov. Siderov knocked the phone out of her hand and squeezed her arm, while Chukolov pushed her. The shop owner interposed himself to try to protect his wife.
Meanwhile, Siderov and Chukolov continued to push and insult people outside the shop and the police. “They behaved arrogantly and aggressively, flaunting their position as MPs,” prosecutors said. A little later, Chukolov approached the owner of the premises and hit him in the face.
At about 11pm, more police arrived, who tried to separate Siderov and Chukolov from the people outside and to stop the actions of the two Ataka MPs. Chukolov hit a policeman in the face. Siderov insulted another police officer and threatened to “fire him”. Siderov then hit the police officer.
Prosecutors said that in spite of the intervention of the police, the presence of many people who expressed their outrage at the behaviour of the two, and that of reporters covering the events, Siderov and Chukolov continued their actions until about 11.30pm. Chukolov then went to Slaveikov Square and Siderov remained at the scene until about 4am.
The case is to be heard by Sofia City Court. A guilty verdict on the hooliganism charge could mean jail of up to five years. A guilty verdict on the charge of causing bodily harm to a police officer who is performing his duties could mean jail of up to three years.
Siderov and Chukolov have said that the shop was selling contraband and illegal narcotics. At the time of the incident, a search of the premises by police found no such items.
Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted last year to remove the immunity from prosecution that Siderov and Chukolov have as MPs. The Rakovski Street case is one of several in connection with which Siderov faces criminal charges. Chukolov also faces criminal charges, including hooliganism and assault, in connection with other incidents. In all cases, the two deny wrongdoing.
A trial of Siderov in connection with an incident on a Sofia-Varna flight and at Varna Airport, in which he faces charges of hooliganism and assault, has been proceeding for some months.
Pro-Russian Ataka, which brands itself as a patriotic Bulgarian party, is one of the two smallest parties in the current Bulgarian Parliament, which has eight parliamentary groups. Ataka was first elected to Parliament in 2005, then with 21 MPs, and has been returned in each election since then – in 2009, 2013 and 2014 – but with a declining electoral performance.
In the 2015 mayoral and municipal elections in Bulgaria, Ataka got a share of the vote nationally so low that, if extrapolated to the rules of parliamentary elections which have a four per cent threshold for winning seats, would mean that Siderov’s party would not gain entry to the National Assembly.