Justice Minister: No reason for President to delay decree dismissing Geshev as Prosecutor-General

There are no constitutional and legal obstacles to President Roumen Radev signing the decree dismissing Ivan Geshev as Prosecutor-General, according to Atanas Slavov, Bulgaria’s Justice Minister and a specialist in constitutional law.

Slavov was speaking after the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) voted 16 to four on June 12 to dismiss Geshev. For the dismissal to take effect, it must be decreed by the head of state.

Two close allies of Radev said at the weekend that Radev has the grounds, based on upcoming Constitutional Court challenges mounted by Geshev against amendments enabling his dismissal, to hold off signing the decree until the court issues its rulings.

“For now on, it’s up to the President. He does not have a deadline to issue the decree, but the procedure itself implies a quick ruling by the head of state,” Slavov said.

We Continue the Change co-leader Kiril Petkov called on Radev to issue the decree dismissing Radev as Prosecutor-General by the end of the week.

“It would be a huge mistake for the president not to quickly sign the decree to dismiss the Prosecutor-General,” Petkov said. “In my opinion, he should issue the decree by the end of the week, if he is not trying to evade his constitutional responsibilities.”

Petkov said that WCC hoped that there would be no next Prosecutor-General.

He said that amending the constitution would result in there being no such position in Bulgaria “in order to free Bulgaria from backstage dependencies and to achieve a normal institutional state of law”.

The Bulgarian government media service said that the SJC vote was only one step in the judicial reform to which the parliamentary majority had committed itself.

“We expect the National Assembly and the other institutions to continue to follow the direction of a comprehensive judicial reform for the benefit of the Bulgarian society, as laid down in the governance program of the government,” the government statement said.

In Strasbourg on June 13, Geshev’s meeting with the monitoring group of European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) was a damp squib, lasting about 17 minutes.

Ahead of the meeting, Geshev had said that “interesting” things would emerge at his meeting with the committee, about corruption at the highest levels of power.

A bid by the European People’s Party, of which GERB is a member, to cancel the meeting on the grounds that Geshev is no longer Prosecutor-General failed.

At the meeting, Geshev was asked about the origin of the funds involved in the purchase of a house in Barcelona, allegedly by GERB leader Boiko Borissov, a charge Borissov denies; and about visuals showing stacks of high-denomination euro notes, gold ingots and pistol in a bedside drawer beside which Borissov was sleeping.

MEP Petar Vitanov said that the content of the meeting would be reflected in the annual monitoring report on the rule of law in Bulgaria, which is expected in July.

Reporters in Strasbourg said at the committee meeting, which was held behind closed doors, members ran out of questions and lost interest in Geshev, which was why the meeting was so short.

Geshev, speaking to Bulgarian reporters at the European Parliament, said that he expected to see if Radev would issue a decree dismissing him, and would await the Constitutional Court’s ruling on his applications before he commented.

“Whatever I have to say, I will say in Bulgaria,” said Geshev, who left the June 13 sitting of the SJC to travel to Strasbourg.

On June 13, constitutional law Associate Professor Nataliya Kisselova and lawyer Ina Lulcheva told Bulgarian National Television that Radev need not wait for the Constitutional Court ruling to sign the decree dismissing Geshev.

Kisselova said that a Constitutional Court decision could take up to two years. She said, however, that Radev should be given a few days to familiarise himself with the SJC decision.

“We shouldn’t give the president hours to familiarise himself with the SJC’s proposal. Let him still have a few days. After Geshev has stated several times that he has to reveal important things, let’s give him the opportunity within today and tomorrow in Strasbourg,” she said.

“The constitution did not provide for a deadline and in this sense a few days is the least we can give as a possibility,” Kisselova said.

“It would be good if the National Assembly mobilised and elected a composition of the SJC and its Inspectorate, as well as two constitutional judges, because this is also the reason for the delay in the Constitutional Court,” she said.

Lulchev said that the Constitutional Court already had ruled on a similar issue involving the SJC Inspectorate.

“Both I and many colleagues expect the president to act in the same way now – not to wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court, but to sign the decree. The question asked by the chief prosecutor for the SJC is a foregone conclusion, since a few months ago there was decision on a similar matter,” Lulcheva said, referring to Geshev challenging whether the SJC could make a legally valid decision given that the terms of office of some of its members had expired.

Meanwhile, on June 13, the Supreme Court of Cassation announced that it was receiving the first reports against Geshev and National Investigation Service head Borislav Sarafov.

These reports follow the legislative amendments approved by Parliament creating a new mechanism for investigating the Prosecutor-General and his deputies.

The statement said that the complaints – described in Bulgarian media reports as an “avalanche” had been referred to court’s criminal bench with an accompanying letter from the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office.

In the documents, the whistleblowers are represented only by a first name and an initial for the surname.

(Photo of Slavov: Democratic Bulgaria)

Please support The Sofia Globe’s independent journalism by becoming a subscriber to our page on Patreon:

Become a Patron!

The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to sofiaglobe.com's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=32709292