Bulgarian nationalist politician accused in people-trafficking case resigns from Simeonov’s party

Anelia Veleva, co-ordinator of Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov’s far-right National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria party in the town of Kostinbrod, has submitted her resignation after being charged in a people-trafficking case.

Veleva denies wrongdoing and is currently out on bail. The judge ordered her released from custody on the grounds that the two police officers who testified against her had given contradictory evidence and so far there was no clear evidence that she had been involved in the crime group.

She was arrested on July 24 among a group of people who were travelling in a convoy of cars on Trakiya Motorway, transporting migrants illegally from Bulgaria’s border with Turkey to the Serbian border.

Veleva said on July 28 that she had asked to leave her post as the NFSB co-ordinator in Kostinbrod and to leave the party, “I believe that I have been the subject of a negative media campaign, precisely because of my party involvement and because of the participation of NFSB in the government”.

Simeonov’s NFSB is part of the United Patriots, the grouping of nationalist and far-right parties that is the minority partner in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government.

Prosecutors said that Veleva had been in the “pilot car” keeping an eye out en route for police posts.

The case sparked significant attention because of the NFSB’s rhetoric against refugees and migrants.

Simeonov, interviewed by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television on July 26, said that he would await the decision of the court before deciding on the expulsion of Veleva from the NFSB.

He said that the NFSB had more than 1000 structures across Bulgaria and no one could know at any given moment if a chairman or a member would commit a crime.

“It is not fair for the party or the leadership to take responsibility,” Simeonov said.

“The leadership of our party, in autumn 2015, called for drastic increases of the penalties in the Penal Code for people-trafficking, as we did from one to 10 years, for officials from three to 12 years in prison with confiscation of the vehicles and with fines of 10 000 to 30 000 leva. And all this was our proposal, which clearly shows what our attitude to this illegal activity is,” Simeonov said.

He said that at the very beginning of the coalition government, the truth had not been concealed and no “umbrellas” were concealing anyone. When any irregularity is detected, immediate action is taken, he said.

“This is a good and new example in politics. No one should imagine that after becoming a member of the largest party or of a party in government, he will be able to rely on some concealment or protection,” Simeonov said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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