Protesting Bulgarians wiretapped under ‘coup’ accusation

A protester holds a placard reading 'Ms. Merkel, aren't you ashame of this corrupt guy?" during an anti-government protest in front of the Council of Ministers in Sofia, Bulgaria, 29 July 2020. [Vassil Donev/EPA/EFE]

More than 100 Bulgarian citizens and opposition politicians who took part in 2020 mass protests against the government of Boyko Borissov and the Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev were wiretapped after being accused of planning a “coup,” acting Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov told parliament.

On Wednesday, Rashkov answered questions by MPs and promised to provide the data to a parliamentary committee which is set to investigate the case. According to the information made public in parliament, at least 123 citizens were wiretapped at the request of the specialised prosecutor’s office and with the permission of the specialised criminal court.

The authorities obtained permission for the wiretapping, by staging an investigation into a criminal coup by a group of individuals alleged to be seeking to forcibly oust Borissov. The case was conducted by the specialised prosecutor’s office, which is normally in charge of cases of utmost importance, and the court accepted these arguments.

Thus, legally protesting Bulgarians fell victim to surveillance by the secret services. The previous “coup” case that the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office worked on was after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1950s.

The leader of the parliamentary group of “Stand Up BG”, Maya Manolova, announced on Wednesday that the entire office of her party, including the secretaries, were wiretapped in the summer of 2020 after taking part in the protests against Borissov.

The prosecution says that the wiretapping was conducted legally and with the permission of the court. Geshev did not comment on the reasons for investigating the alleged coup.

On 5 October, 2020 the European Parliament issued a resolution saying that Bulgaria has deteriorating “democracy and fundamental [human] rights, including the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers, the fight against corruption and media freedom.” Geshev then refused to appear for a hearing in parliament.

Borissov, former prime minister and leader of the opposition GERB party, has repeatedly described the civil protests against him as an attempted coup. Mass wiretapping in the service of the former ruling party is one of the motives for demanding the resignation of Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev, who is under increasing pressure from the new majority in parliament. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)

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