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REPUBLIC OF BULARIA
Sofia, 24th September 2020
Dear Ms. Strugariu,
Dear Mr. Casa,
Dear Ms. Adamowicz,
Dear Mr. Smeriglio,
Dear Ms. Joveva,
Dear Ms. von Cramon-Taubadel,
Dear Ms. Kuhnke,
Dear Ms. Melbarde,
Dear Ms. Duris-Nicholsonova,
Dear Mr. Kouloglou,
In reply to your letter dated 15th September 2020, I would like to assure you that the actions of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Bulgaria are guided by the rule of law principles and the stipulations of the Bulgarian Constitution, which guarantee the freedom of speech and of the mass media, as well as the right to a peaceful protest of the citizens. Along these lines, the efforts and the goals of the political and professional leadership of the Ministry of Interior are entirely directed towards securing the safety, the independence and the full legal protection of the journalists covering public events or protests in the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. Our efforts are also directed towards safeguarding the right of the Bulgarian citizens to participate in protests and express their opinion in a peaceful manner, without breaching the public order and the rights of the other citizens.
At the same time, some of the protest activities seriously breach the public order, the laws and the constitutional rights of the citizens. These activities include blocking of key crossroads, setting up tent camps and the so-called “barricades” along central boulevards of some of the largest cities in Bulgaria. Persons, claiming to be organizers of the protests, however without bearing the respective responsibility according to the legal prescriptions, also call through the social networks for breaches of the public order. As a result, despite the tolerance and the appeals of the Bulgarian police for preserving the peaceful nature of the protests, the police officers are subject to provocations and aggression by some of the protesters.
The signals quoted in your letter refer to the protests held during the day and the evening of 2nd September 2020 in Sofia. From the very first hours of the so-called by its unofficial leaders “uprising”, the actions of the protesters gradually escalated and throughout the day until the late evening, the aggression against the police officers increased. They were:
- Fired at with pepper sprays,
- Thrown at with bales of hay, while attempts were made at the same time to set the bales on fire,
- Thrown at with cobblestones, bottles and other heavy objects,
- Hit by metal tubes and wooden poles,
- Shot at with improvised explosive devices.
As a result, more than 100 police officers were injured, as well as protesting citizens. Journalists from the two biggest private TV channels, as well as from the public television and the public radio were gassed during a pepper spray attack against the law-enforcement bodies. The medical examinations of the police officers showed different fractures, chemical and thermal burns, gassing and other traumatic injuries. As many as 39 MoI officers were taken to hospital and a part of them were hospitalized. The other part was provided medical aid on the spot.
During the day of 2nd September a total of 126 persons were detained. The goal was to stop the illegal attacks against police officers, buildings and equipment, to prevent further breaches of public order, to separate the provokers and safeguard the lives and the health of the peaceful protesters and the police officers.
Following the investigations held on the attacks and other unlawful acts committed during the night of the protest, a total of 35 pre-trial proceedings were initiated, under which charges were brought against 37 persons. The work on identifying all the facts continues.
With regard to the actions of the police 4 disciplinary checks are ongoing for unlawful actions performed by police officers.
As for the concern expressed in your letter and your call for “full, thorough and impartial investigation of the alleged attack by the Bulgarian riot police against Mr. Dimiter Kenarov, a freelance reporter”, I would like to inform you that such a check was started right after Mr. Kenarov announced publicly his claims through the social networks and the Bulgarian media.
The specific information I can provide on the still ongoing investigations including of the cases of Mr. Kenarov and the rest of the journalists, quoted in your letter, is the following:
With a view to receiving their position and information about the events from that evening, the commissions performing the checks have contacted the journalists Mr. Dimiter Kenarov and Mr. Nikolay Doychinov who claim that they are victims of the actions of police officers. The available video recordings from different sources concerning the events on 2nd September 2020 are subject to a careful and thorough investigation. Telephone conversations were held with Mr. Kenarov and Mr. Stoyan Madin who presented himself as his lawyer. On 16 September 2020 Mr. Kenarov was informed that he can present his position in person or in an email to the official email address of the Sofia Metropolitan Directorate of Interior, [email protected] since he declared commitments outside Sofia. On 23rd September 2020 the lawyer (Mr. Madin) sent an email on behalf of Mr. Kenarov describing “facts as perceived personally on 2nd September”. As a check was initiated on the case and there is no explicit permission by Mr. Kenarov to publicly announce his position, it would be unlawful to do so before the conclusion of the check.
So far Mr. Doychinov has not provided information on his case. The journalist from the Bulgarian National Television, Mr. Nikolay Minkov, has provided a written statement saying he was affected by pepper spray used by the police in self-defence. According to statement of Mr. Minkov, the incident is the result of his decision to stand between the protestors and the police in order to be able to report the events from both sides. He does not think that the police have overstepped their rights or that his rights have been violated by the police officers. According to the journalist from the public television the actions of the police were directed towards pushing back aggressive protestors who were trying to set on fire some bales of hay that have been previously stacked by them in front of the police line.
In conclusion, I would like to assure you once again that the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Bulgaria follows a policy of zero tolerance towards cases of excessive use of police powers. Any signal or information about such actions against Bulgarian or foreign nationals, including journalists and people exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest, is investigated fully and impartially. When unlawful or unethical actions are established – the guilty officers are prosecuted with the full force of the law.
Hoping that with this letter and the enclosed video recordings thereto I have provided enough information on the questions raised in your letter, I remain,