Bulgarian Interior Minister Rejects Police Brutality Reports
Bulgaria is a country where there is rule of law and will remain such, says Interior Minister, Tsvetlin Yovchev.
Yovchev made the statement Friday during the so-called Parliamentary Control when members of the Cabinet answer questions of Members of the Parliament.
His words were in connection to a question from two MPs from the formerly-ruling and now-opposition center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, about reports of police harassment of a group of antigovernment protesters from the southwestern city of Blagoevgrad.
On July 31, on their way back home from protest rallies in the capital Sofia, buses from the city of Blagoevgrad and the town of Gotse Delchev were stopped twice by traffic police. Both times, the ID cards of the passengers were collected, data from them recorded, and the drivers were issued citations.
During the Blagoevgrad stop, they were handed summonses to appear before local police for violating the Meetings and Rallies Act and public order in Sofia.
The summonses have been prepared in advance with police only filling in the names of the protesters.
On Friday, GERB MPs demanded explanations about the above and the reasons for the police checks.
Yovchev stated that some protesters from southwestern Bulgaria have grossly violated public order in Sofia and have provoked policemen with their disorderly conduct, which had imposed checking the buses and handing the summonses in order to identify the perpetrators.
He, however, firmly rejected reports of police repressions, saying the police officers never breached the law in their actions.
The Minister further informed that police have identified among civilians, who during a rally on September 4, when the lawmakers returned from summer break, pushed metal fences, refused to obey police orders and resisted arrests, 11 people again from Blagoevgrad. Pre-trial proceedings have been launched in the case.
Yovchev also informed MPs that the total emergency expenditures of his Ministry related to the antigovernment protest rallies from June 14 to September 5 have reached BGN 1.4 M. 3 660 policemen have been dispatched to Sofia from 21 Regional Police Directorates. Overtime pay for policemen is estimated at BGN 202 330, while the rest has been used for regular pay and other cost incurred during the demonstrations.
The Minister explained Sofia policemen have already received their overtime pay, while those from different parts of the country will be paid in October.
Under the law, police employees can work up to 50 overtime hours in the course of one month.
Yovchev explained he was seeking ways to compensate those who have worked more than 50 extra hours, but added the compensations, "regretfully would not be for the full amount."
Bulgarians have been staging for three months now mass and relentless anti-government rallies with demands the Socialist-endorsed Cabinet of Prime Minister, Plamen Oresharski, resigns immediately over alleged links with mafia and oligarchs and controversial appointments.
The rallies, at times reaching 20 000 and even 30-40 000 in Sofia, have subsided in numbers in the last weeks.
They were triggered by the appointment of notorious media mogul and lawmaker Delyan Peevski as Head of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) back on June 14.
The protesters were not appeased by the subsequent cancellation of the decision and went on to demand the resignation of the cabinet over ties with oligarchs and a number of controversial appointments.
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