Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov has asked for an investigation into an allegation that police, said to be sympathetic to foreign paramilitary organisations, had threatened a serving Cabinet minister.
Denkov made the announcement at a November 23 meeting of the Cabinet, without naming the minister targeted by the threats.
“I expect an investigation into this report, as well as specific actions by the Interior Ministry regarding comprehensive and profound reform, so that such people cannot serve in the Interior Ministry,” Denkov said.
“There is no way that a law enforcement officer can make threats to a serving minister,” he said.
Denkov’s comments came in the context of continuing controversy about events in the November 16 violent street clash between police and “football fans” during a protest against the head of the Bulgarian Football Union.
There have been allegations of police brutality and, from within the We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria coalition, a participant in the informal coalition supporting the government, demands for the resignation of Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov. While WCC-DB has wanted Stoyanov out, the other participants in the informal coalition, Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, have stood by him.
Stoyanov, called on by Denkov to denounced police brutality, has said that he rejects both violence against civilians and against police. On November 22, Denkov – who had said he would resign as PM should Stoyanov not denounce police brutality – responded to the Interior Minister’s comments as “going in the correct direction”.
Denkov told the November 23 meeting of the Cabinet that he expects two reports from Stoyanov on what happened during the protest against the Bulgarian Football Union leadership, one on the police who exceeded their authority, the other on provocateurs among the protesters.
On the report on the provocateurs, it should be shown how their guilt had been established and what punishment lay in store for them.
“On the other hand, regarding all the reports of police violence I want clarity – who are the police officers, how are they investigated, what is the result, and those who have exceeded their powers significantly should be dismissed from the service, as they have no place in the Interior Ministry,” Denkov said.
“I have to say this again, because some of the statements I have heard in recent days make them think that the ministry has gone in the wrong direction again,” he said.
Denkov said that he would define his attitude towards the Interior Ministry and Minister Kalin Stoyanov depending on the content of the two reports, as well as the punishments and steps provided for in them.
“I want to emphasize again that the overwhelming amount of protesters used this opportunity that they have by law and by right – to protest when they do not agree with certain institutions, but among them there were provocateurs who challenged the police, and therefore they have a huge blame for what happened,” Denkov said.
“These provocateurs must be sought out, investigated and, where necessary, convicted,” he said.
Denkov said that the vast majority of police officers did their duty as they should and could be an example.
“But there was also a certain number of them who exceeded their rights, who used violence without it being necessary, and therefore they should also be investigated and punished,” the prime minister said categorically.
“I expect the Interior Ministry to start training police officers on how to respect the rights of journalists and protect them during protests. To guarantee the rights of citizens to access information, we must first guarantee the rights of the media,” he said.
This comment came in the context of video footage and reports that at the November 16 confrontation, some reporters, in spite of showing media credentials, had been seriously assaulted by police.
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