In a packed municipal hall in Bulgaria’s seaside town of Nessebur, Nikolai Dimitrov was sworn in on November 11 for a fourth term as mayor. For the occasion, the handcuffs he had been wearing while being transported to the ceremony were removed.
Dimitrov and two municipal councillors are accused of operating as an organised crime group, which he headed, involved in vote-buying. He and his fellow accused deny wrongdoing.
Dimitrov was arrested before the October 27 local elections in Nessebur, in which he scored a first-round victory with close to 60 per cent of the vote. Standing as an independent, he defeated the candidate of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, who got just less than 36 per cent, and a candidate from a local party, who got just less than two per cent.
Transported in a convoy of armoured vehicles from Sofia for the swearing-in ceremony, Dimitrov was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds of supporters, Bulgarian National Radio said.
Dimitrov, who was deeply emotional, thanked his supporters for not succumbing to “this provocation and heinous intrigue” against him.
Residents of Nessebur called for the release of Dimitrov, the BNR report said.
His lawyer, Inna Lulcheva, had approached the Special Prosecutor’s Office with a request for his temporary transport from custody so that he could take office. She said that Dimitrov had been democratically elected and if he could not take office, that would mean the election had been overridden. She also asked for the charges against him to be dropped.
“If there was a prosecutor’s office operating in the interests of the law and actually working in the interests of the law and citizens, I wanted to be answered within three days. So far I have no answer. This is absolutely in violation of the law. The prosecutor’s office allows itself, in violation of the law to act as if these requests did not exist,” Lulcheva told BNR.
She said that she would petition the Prosecutor-General and the Supreme Judicial Council Inspectorate about the matter.
Bulgarian National Television reported on November 11 that after the ceremony, Dimitrov was handcuffed again and returned to custody. One of his deputy mayors was appointed to act in his stead.
(Photo of Dimitrov: Nessebur municipality)