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(DF) Parliament Condemns Police Brutality during Anti-government Protests in 2020

August 17 (BTA) – Parliament Tuesday adopted a declaration that condemns police brutality during anti-government and anti-corruption protests in 2020. The text was approved at an extraordinary sitting of the legislature held after security camera footage showing police kicking and punching handcuffed protestors last July, was made public last week. The sitting was convened by National Assembly Chair Iva Miteva on Saturday to hear the Interior Minister about the action undertaken to establish and punish the persons who have overstepped their authority. According to Nikolai Hadjigenov, MP of Rise Up BG! Here We Come!, who chairs a parliamentary commission that probes cases of police violence and unlawful wiretapping during the 2020 anti-government protests, the disc with the footage had been found in a drawer in the Sofia Regional Directorate of the Interior (SRDI). Hadjigenov said that “the footage shows the horrendous facts that the governance of the regime of [former prime minister Boyko] Borissov has no parallel in the EU. This is an abominable dictatorship that resorts to means used during wartime,” he said, adding that the true culprits are the heads of services, ministers and Borissov himself. Speaking in Parliament, caretaker Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said that SRDI had conducted three checks in connection with police violence perpetrated on July 10, 2020. Rashkov stressed that “the Interior Ministry unit whose officers appear in the footage itself checked their action”. He argued that the checks were “superficial” and that not all Interior Ministry officials who participated in the beating of protesters had been identified. Rashkov also said that “violence was apparently used and it was disproportionate”. The Interior Minister also said that as of Monday, a group has been formed on his order with representatives of various services in the Ministry to identify all police offices who participated in this “ignominious act on July 10, 2020” and to reconsider the punishments imposed on them. In his opinion, the sanctions imposed on the four policemen are not commensurate to the gravity of their act. Rashkov also said that the Sofia Regional Prosecution Office had opened a case file after information submitted to the Interior Ministry about police brutality against protesters. The prosecutor in charge of the case, Veronica Trifonova, terminated the case file, he said, adding that at the moment she is a Bulgarian delegated prosecutor in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office Antoaneta Tsoneva, MP of the Democratic Bulgaria, said that the Interior Ministry official who issued an order to drag and beat protesters is Andon Andonov, a former head in the riot police division of the SRDI, who now works in the Protection Bureau to the Prosecutor General. Meanwhile, the Specialized Prosecution Office (SPO) said that it will not ensure presence of prosecutors at discussions of the parliamentary commission on police brutality. This emerges from a response the SPO has sent to Hadjigenov’s demand for such presence. The refusal is justified with the circumstance that the investigation is ongoing and the information collected in it constitutes a secret. Also, such presence will constitute breach of the Constitution, the SPO said. RY/ZH//