Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov issued a call on June 27 for the country’s institutions to take steps against pro-Russian party Vuzrazhdane over its calls for violence and recent disturbances in which it has been involved.
Aggression and violence are punishable, and immunity as an MP from prosecution cannot be used to avoid punishment, Denkov said.
He called on President Roumen Radev and other parties to take a stance on the matter, and called on Vuzrazhdane – the third-largest party in Bulgaria’s Parliament, though with only 37 out of 240 MPs – to comply with the laws of the country.
Denkov quoted from an address by philosopher Professor Georgi Fotev at a recent conference: “A neo-fascist party is running amok in the Bulgarian Parliament – it is marching in the national media as well.
“A war has been declared on European values, which are also the fundamental Bulgarian national values. Bulgaria will lose the battle for its European identity without a staunch and courageous European position by the media,” he quoted Fotev as saying.
“My appeal is to the Presidency and to the other parties in the National Assembly, to say whether they think it is normal to call for violence, including against political figures,” Denkov said.
“This type of action by Vuzrazhdane started two years ago. In the past month, we have seen the activation of this aggression, including with the (social media) posts of the party leader, including with violence that took place in the street, as well as with an illegitimate ban on MPs from making their speeches from the rostrum of the National Assembly. History knows that big problems start with small actions of this type,” he said.
Flanking Dankov at the briefing, Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov called on the public not to provoke violence and hatred.
Justice Minister Atanas Slavov said that immunity as an MP was neither a privilege nor an indulgence.
“The use of immunity to circumvent administrative and criminal responsibility, for failure to realize such responsibility, is an abuse of law,” Slavov said.
Slavov said that calls for politically motivated violence, aggression, and the use of hate speech are punishable acts.
“I call on the relevant Bulgarian authorities, on the basis of the publicly known facts and information, to establish those actions that are proportionate, to initiate the relevant inspections, to start the relevant investigations,” he said.
Slavov said that as a democratic society, Bulgaria could not allow violence to become the norm in the political process.
Recent incidents have included Vuzrazhdane leader Kostadin Kostadinov, in a Facebook post, threatening the “democratic community” that it was a “monstrous anti-human scum and it is the duty of every normal citizen to destroy this scum”.
Vuzrazhdane MP Emil Yankov said on Facebook that the Belene communist-era prison camp would soon be re-opened for all “national traitors”.
Article 44 (2) of the Bulgarian constitution says that an organisation’s activity “shall not be contrary to the country’s sovereignty and national integrity, or the unity of the nation, nor shall it incite racial, national, ethnic or religious enmity or an encroachment on the rights and freedoms of citizens; no organisation shall establish clandestine or paramilitary structures or shall seek to attain its aims through violence”.
On May 21, Vuzrazhdane was involved in a so-called “march for peace and neutrality”, during which participants pelted the House of Europe – the offices of the European Parliament and European Commission in Sofia – with red paint. An investigation in connection with charges of hooliganism was initiated, but no results have been announced, more than a month later.
An investigation also was initiated after a small crowd, including several individuals wearing Vuzrazhdane t-shirts, prevented the scheduled June 11 screening of the film Close, part of the Sofia Pride Film Festival.
According to the organisers, the protesters insulted and threatened the audience in the lobby of the movie theater, and police present allegedly even encouraged and shook hands with the intruders.
In Parliament, Vuzrazhdane has on a number of occasions tried to stop MPs from We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria addressing the House, leading to sittings being suspended. Discussions are proceeding on stiffer penalties for disrupting the proceedings of Parliament.
On June 26, the embassy of Israel in Bulgaria expressed deep concern about what it called a truly alarming antisemitic statement by Kostadinov.
In a post on Facebook, Kostadinov referred to the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria Shalom as “Jewish Nazis”.
After the Sofia Pride Film Festival incident, people with Vuzrazhdane t-shirts, led by a Vuzrazhdane MP, intruded into the Cosmic Beer Shop, which had put in its window a sign that it would not serve Vuzrazhdane people.
After that incident, the windows of the beer shop were daubed with words and symbols of striking similarity to those used by the Nazis in Kristallnacht, the overture to the Holocaust.
Subsequently, in a show of solidarity and rejection of Nazi symbolism and hate speech, members of Shalom’s leadership posted photos online of them patronising the beer shop.
Kostadinov said that he had referred the shop’s “discrimination” to the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination and to the Consumer Protection Commission and was wondering “whether to inform the World Jewish Congress about Shalom’s support for Nazi practices”.
Israel’s embassy said of Kostadinov’s post: “This antisemitic statement is truly alarming and has no place neither in Bulgaria nor in any other country. We urge the official authorities to step in and take immediate and decisive action against hate speech”.
In the late afternoon on June 27, the Sofia City Prosecutors Office said it had initiated an investigation into Kostadinov on the basis of media reports.
The aim of the investigation is to establish whether he violated the Penal Code.
“It will be established whether through speech, print, or other means of mass information, through information systems or in any other way, an MP preaches or incites discrimination, violence or hatred based on race, nationality or ethnicity.”
The period for carrying out an inspection by law is up to three months, after which an assessment will be made as to whether there is sufficient data that a crime had been committed and to initiate pre-trial proceedings.
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