(DF) Parliament Will Convene Over Police Brutality during Last Year’s Anti-establishment Protests, Politicians Call for Accountability

August 15 (BTA) – In a statement on Saturday National Assembly Chair Iva Miteva said she will convene an extraordinary parliamentary sitting on August 17 in connection with a video of police brutality during last year’s anti-government protests. The video, shown in Parliament on Friday, caused shock and a wave of comments both on social networks and among politicians, who on Saturday described the footage as “harrowing” and called for those responsible to be held accountable. An ad hoc committee probing possible police brutality during the 2020 protests against the previous government and against corruption, screened Friday security camera footage showing police kicking and punching detained protestors by the government building in central Sofia. Lawyers and magistrates have been searching for more than a year to find exactly this footage from the night of July 10, 2020 from a security camera of the National Protection Service. National Protection Service chief Emil Tonev had denied having any security camera footage from that night and that spot. His deputy subsequently said that they can only give the video to the national security authorities. This video was found sitting in a drawer in a Sofia Directorate of the Interior office and was made available to the ad hoc committee after the interference of caretaker Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov. Nikolai Hadzhigenov MP of Rise Up BG! Here We Come!, who chairs the ad hoc committee, but before being elected to Parliament was the legal representative of a protestor who complained of police violence, said that whoever is responsible for concealing the video, was an accomplice in a crime. He said President Rumen Radev and caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev owe an answer about how long they intend to keep Emil Tonev as head of the National Protection Service. He said it was a crime that the checks of the prosecution service and the Interior Ministry found no police brutality. Hadzhigenov also said that because of that camera footage former interior minister Mladen Marinov, who is an MP of the formerly ruling GERB party now, has been sent to Parliament to avoid prosecution through his MP immunity. Hadzhigenov noted there are more videos his committee is yet to watch. Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Leader Kornelia Ninova commented, as quoted by her party’s press centre on Saturday, that the footage showing violence against protestors is harrowing. In her words, everyone is talking about this footage now, but talking is not enough. She called for an unbiased investigation, a court and liability. Ninova also said that the most responsible for this is the person under whose windows of the government building it happened. There Is Such a People leader Slavi Trifonov said in a Facebook post on Saturday that the one responsible for the police violence against protestors last year is the then prime minister, Boyko Borissov. The footage proves that the protestors were right to protest against the Borissov government, Trifonov wrote. His post is accompanied by a link to the video of police violence with the description saying that “the footage is harrowing” and “hidden by the former power holders”. In his words, everyone involved in this crime should be arrested right away and put on trial immediately. In a video on Facebook, Democratic Bulgaria Floor Leader Hristo Ivanov said that the responsibility for the brutal police violence against protestors rests with Boyko Borissov and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev. On Sunday, two ministers of the interior in the third Borissov cabinet condemned the police violence on social media. Mladen Marinov and Hristo Terziisky, longtime employees of the Interior Ministry and current GERB-UDF MPs, wrote that they vehemently “oppose” and “condemn” all forms of violence. Terziisky wrote he continues to stand by his words that “we, as employees of the Interior Ministry, have nothing to gain from covering violations because they undermine the reputation of the Ministry.” For his part, Marinov wrote that he has never concealed information about committed crimes in his career as a police officer. “MPs and persons who allege that I have concealed information about crimes in my capacity as Interior Miinster will have to prove their claims in court,” wrote Marinov. In a statement on Sunday, the Sofia City Prosecution said that under its oversight 65 pretrial proceedings have been launched in connection with acts of hooliganism and instances of bodily harm caused during the protests of the summer of 2020. Twenty-four have already been concluded and submitted to the court. Also, the Sofia City Prosecution oversees pretrial proceedings about bodily harm caused by police officers while they discharged their duties. In the course of the investigation witnesses have been questioned and camera surveillance footage has been recovered including the recording, shown in Parliament. The video has been analyzed, documents have been retrieved and expert medical evaluations have been ordered and carried out. Four employees of the Interior Minister have been pressed with charges. The investigation is ongoing and is placed under special supervision. RI/DS,PP //