Bulgaria: Controversy over Sarafov’s appointment as acting Prosecutor-General

There is controversy over the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) prosecutors college’s June 16 election of Borislav Sarafov as acting Prosecutor-General, with the Union of Judges in Bulgaria calling the decision “shameful”, and Justice Minister Atanas Slavov describing it as “unacceptable” and moving to have it overturned.

Sarafov was elected to the position after President Roumen Radev decreed the dismissal of Ivan Geshev as Prosecutor-General, following the June 12 vote by the SJC to dismiss Geshev.

The Union of Judges in Bulgaria said in a statement on June 19 that the SJC prosecutors college did not have the power to name Sarafov acting Prosecutor-General.

It said that the SJC prosecutors college’s choice was a “shameful decision, severely damaging the authority of the judiciary”.

“For a month now the public has been witnessing a fight between groups and loci of power outside the judiciary, carried out by the leadership of the prosecution service using criminal procedure instruments and means,” the Union of Judges in Bulgaria said.

It said that SJC prosecutors college had allowed itself to replace one of the main actors in this process with another, no less discredited. There were justified serious doubts about Sarafov’s integrity, professional and moral qualities, the statement said.

The Union of Judges in Bulgaria noted that there were two complaints under the Criminal Procedure Code against Sarafov for acts committed in his capacity as Deputy Prosecutor-General and as head of the National Investigative Service.

The statement called on the SJC plenum – due to meet on June 22 – to replace Sarafov with a prosecutor with proven professional competence and integrity who meets the requirements for this position, after public discussion and presentation of clear reasons.

Justice Minister Slavov said on June 18 that he would raise the matter of Sarafov’s election as acting Prosecutor-General at the June 22 meeting of the SJC, saying that the election had not been completely legitimate.

“The way Sarafov was elected, without an open meeting, without other candidates participating in the procedure, without an evaluation of his professional and moral qualities, which is a mandatory requirement under the Judicial System Act, and without following the established process, raises justified doubts about the reasons for his election,” Slavov said in an interview with bTV.

Slavov said that if doubts about the legitimacy of the election of Sarafov were not dispelled, he would approach the Supreme Administrative Court to overturn it.

The SJC prosecutors college was scheduled to meet on the afternoon of June 19, with an agenda including the resignation of one of the deputy prosecutors-general and a motion by Sarafov to dismiss the others.

On June 19, Geshev – who earlier had applied for reinstatement as a prosecutor – announced that he was resigning from the judicial system. In a message on Facebook, Geshev indicated that he intended taking up a political career.

(Photo of Sarafov via the website of the Prosecutor’s Office)

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