The Regional Court in the Bulgarian town of Pazardzhik was due on July 13 to examine an application to extradite to Spain the mayor of the village of Semchinovo, Plamen Temelkov, and six other people to face charges of involvement in an organised crime group trafficking people for sexual exploitation and prostitution.
Temelkov and the others were arrested at the end of June. At the time, police and prosecutors found large sums of money, six kilograms and gold and various types of drugs at Temelkov’s home. The operation was carried out in execution of a European Arrest Warrant.
The Prosecutor’s Office has said that the organised crime operation had been going on since the end of 2014.
An earlier bid to extradite Temelkov and the others to Spain was postponed because of a delay in the preparation of documents guaranteeing that they would be returned to Bulgaria if found not guilty, and in the event of conviction, each would have the right to choose to serve their sentence in a Spanish or Bulgarian prison.
Semchinovo, with a population of just less than 2000 people, is 20km from Pazardzhik and about 100km from Sofia, and Temelkov has been the focus of controversy since his election in October 2015.
After Temelkov’s election first-round victory, with close to 59 per cent of the vote, there were protests, widely reported in Bulgarian media at the time.
Those who protested alleged that Temelkov had been involved in vote-buying, the source of his income was unclear, his diploma was fake and he was unsuited to occupy the mayor’s office. Protesters held a human chain in November to try to prevent him entering the municipal headquarters.
A petition asking for the election to be overturned drew more than 300 signatures.
Acting on the complaints, prosecutors investigated Temelkov but the investigation at the time produced no result. He entered the mayoral office with an escort of police to protect him.
Speaking to the media in November 2015, Temelkov said that Semchinovo was known as a “mafia village”. He said that his life had been threatened.
The protest against him taking office was met with a counter-protest, of about 50 people, all from Semchinovo’s Roma area. Local Bulgarian media reports of the time hinted that the motivation of the villagers objecting to Temelkov becoming mayor was because he was of Roma origin.