EP to Tackle Illegal Police Snooping in Bulgaria

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | April 18, 2013, Thursday // 12:57| Views: 1767 | Comments: 0
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EP to Tackle Illegal Police Snooping in Bulgaria: EP to Tackle Illegal Police Snooping in Bulgaria EP has decided the issue with breaches in the use of special surveillance devices is a serious problem in Bulgaria, requiring thorough analysis. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The European Parliament has approved a decision to assign the task of examining the issue with illegal mass police spying in Bulgaria to the LIBE Committee.

Bulgarian MEP, Stanimir Ilchev, says LIBE, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, works on the most important reports of violations of human rights, security systems and annual Europol reports.

EP has decided the issue was a serious problem in Bulgaria, requiring thorough analysis.

One day earlier, Hannes Swoboda, President of the EP's S&D Group, called upon the European Commission to investigate Bulgaria's latest wiretapping scandal.

On Monday, the prosecuting authority reported it has uncovered a series of violations at Bulgaria's Interior Ministry concerning unregulated wiretapping.

A team of ten prosecutors started an inspection of the procedures for applying special surveillance devices on March 29.

The main conclusion of the probe is that the Interior Ministry created possibilities for illegal wiretapping.

Speaking Monday at a press conference, the Chief Prosecutor made clear that the probe had revealed numerous violations related to the deployment of surveillance equipment and the oversight of such operations.

Tsatsarov informed that the inspection had detected malfeasance in office and abuse of wiretapping equipment.

He said that pre-trial proceedings had been opened against three directors at the Specialized Directorate Technical Operations of the Interior Ministry and one employee of the unit.

Tsatsarov also explained that important information related to the case had been deleted in a bid to sabotage the probe, adding that the prosecutors would try to recover the lost data.

On March 28, Sergey Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), submitted a tip-off to Tsatsarov about illegal wiretapping of politicians, businessmen and magistrates which had taken place during Tsvetan Tsvetanov's term in office as Interior Minister.

On the following day, a team of prosecutors headed by Sofia City Prosecutor Nikolay Kokinov and his Deputy Roman Vasilev was tasked with the probe at the Interior Ministry.

Tsvetanov continues to deny any involvement in the illegal spying amidst calls from the opposition to step down and leave politics for good.

The head of the special surveillance unit of Bulgaria's police, together with a director from the unit, were temporarily released from duty until the end of investigations against them. 

At a briefing Tuesday, Tsatsarov indirectly admitted the "spying" vehicles have been purchased and used after 2009 when the centrist GERB party took office.

On Wednesday, the Chief Secretary of the Interior, Kalin Georgiev explained before State TV that he was stunned by media interpretations of the results from the ongoing probe, as, according to him, it did not uncover any violations and had not proven that the Interior is illegally spying on people.

Regarding the minivan, circulating around Sofia, which the prosecution seized, the Chief Secretary pointed out the technology was such that it did not allow eavesdropping and could not directly record voices.

"The technology is new and this is most likely why the people using it made some mistakes and oversights. When it was purchased, this I cannot reveal, as it is classified information. After the final conclusions of the probe, we will form a working group to improve the legal frame of the use of such technology," said he.

Georgiev pointed out the senior policemen singled out by the prosecution as the culprits for the breaches in the use of SRS were all very technologically savvy, thus there was no way they deleted the information in such amateur manner as to be caught.

"They are people with dignity, knowledge and skills. The fact they have been charged does not mean they are guilty. I believe that they will be able to clean their names," he concluded.

Georgiev was later questioned by the Prosecutor's Office over the interview as the investigation said he revealed information that they have not been aware of prior to his media appearances.

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Tags: special surveillance devices, Kalin Georgiev, Chief Secretary, interior ministry, Sotir Tsatsarov, Chief Prosecutor, interior ministry, wiretapping, Sergey Stanishev, Bulgarian Socialist Party, Nikolay Kokinov, Roman Vassilev, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB, LIBE, European parliament, EP, SRS, hannes swoboda, European Commission, Bulgarian MEP, stanimir ilchev, Committee on Civil Liberties, justice and home affairs
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