Bulgaria’s PM raises stakes over Interior Minister and police brutality

Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov has called on Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov and the politicians who are protecting Stoyanov to take a firm stand against police brutality, with Denkov saying that if this did not happen, he would resign as PM.

Denkov’s November 20 statement follows footage of police assaulting people during a large-scale confrontation four days earlier with football fans during a protest demanding the resignation of the head of the Bulgarian Football Union.

From within Denkov’s own We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria, there have been calls for Stoyanov to resign, but another part of the “assemblage” supporting the government, GERB-UDF leader Boiko Borissov, instead called for the resignation of the Minister of Sport, Dimitar Iliev.

GERB-UDF has denied that it is standing by Stoyanov because he is close to it. Stoyanov has said that he does not intend submitting his resignation.

However, on November 20, Borissov said that if Stoyanov resigns, so should Denkov.

Denkov told a briefing on Monday: “If the minister (Stoyanov) does not recognise this as violence that deserves an extremely serious and severe sanction, including clarifying why this happens periodically in the police force and how to eliminate it, I will resign”.

“What we want is the minister to stand in front and say ‘this can no longer be tolerated’,” Denkov said.

“I cannot accept being Prime Minister in a government that beats people in the streets in the way that it used to happen,” he said.

Denkov said that it was obvious that there was a culture among a section of people in the police that considers it normal to go out and beat children, women and defenceless people with batons.

“I want both the minister and the politicians who are protecting him say whether they regard this as normal,” he said.

“My actions towards the minister will depend on his attitude towards violence. If he comes out and says what I say, steps are taken and these police leave, I won’t have a problem with him, but I will have a problem if he continues to cover up the situation.”

Denkov called on Parliament to set up an ad hoc committee of inquiry into last Thursday’s police violence, why it came to that, and how to prevent similar cases in future.

This committee should clarify precisely what happened and who specifically was responsible for each action – the beating of journalists, of a girl, and why there were police who were not wearing identification badges and were wearing masks.

“Why are we being told that they had no information about provocations and therefore didn’t they have the appropriate weapons since we see heavily equipped police in the videos?”

Denkov said that the vast majority of police who guarded the protest had done so in an exemplary manner, but those who had committed the beatings with no reason had no ranks in the police.

“If we want the violence to disappear, all politicians and state institutions must be the first to set an example that violence is unacceptable. Therefore, we must all condemn the violence, both by the arsonists and by the police.”

He said that his assessment of Stoyanov’s work on Bulgaria’s attempt to join the Schengen visa zone was that it was brilliant, but Stoyanov underestimated what happened at the November 16 protest.

(Photo: government.bg)

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