A check by Sofia City Court found numerous breaches of Bulgarian legislation in the issuing of wire-tapping warrants in 2015, including 52 instances of warrants targeting persons with diplomatic immunity, according to a court report.
The probe, ordered by Sofia City Court chief Kaloyan Topalov, was meant to “identify existing issues and improve the practice of issuing wire-tapping warrants,” specialist judiciary news website Legalworld.bg reported on April 4.
The findings have been forwarded to Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, the head of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov, Parliament’s committee on wire-tapping oversight and the independent watchdog tasked with wire-tapping oversight, Legalworld.bg said.
According to the court check, the breaches included instances where no record was kept of the warrant request, cases where warrants were issued despite no clear relation between the target of wire-tapping and the alleged crime, cases where multiple warrants were requested by different services targeting the same person, cases of warrant requests without any criminal allegations against the target and cases where the allegations against the target did not qualify for the use of wire-tapping.
Regarding foreign diplomats, the court check did not specify how many people had been targeted by the wire-tapping warrants.
The period covered by the court check included the last months of the term of Sofia City Court chairperson Vladimira Yaneva, who resigned in February 2015 after being suspended by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for the duration of the investigation into her alleged actions as part of a wire-tapping operation that exceeded the limits set by law, as well as several months during which Vladimir Yordanov served as interim court chairperson, until Topalov’s appointment to the post in July 2015.
Topalov claimed that tighter record-keeping put in place at the Sofia City Court has resulted in increased efficiency of wire-tapping warrants, with more than 90 per cent of all warrants resulting in court evidence, compared to an efficiency rate of under 20 per cent previously, Legalworld.bg reported.
(Palace of Justice in Sofia. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)