Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bulgaria: Conflict Between Crime-Fighting Institutions Reaches Peak

Sofia, 11 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The weekend death of a Sofia policeman in a shoot-out at a crime scene has highlighted a political dispute between the Interior Ministry and the Chief Prosecutor's Office.

Sofia media are calling the dispute an "open war," and our Sofia correspondent reports it is among the dominate topics among politicians and in the media.

Over the weekend, Justice Minister Vassil Gotsev said the dispute was personal - between Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Tatartchev. Gotsev said cooperation between the crime-fighting institutions will be restored soon.

Tatartchev recently released a special report, citing widespread police brutality against suspects in detention. The Interior Ministry responded, saying the report was exaggerated, and that action is being taken against those accused of brutality.

Bonev, one of the country's most popular politicians, has appealed for what he calls a swift and lasting solution to the confrontation with the Prosecutor's office. What is Bonev's 'solution'? He has demanded Tatartchev's resignation.

Our Sofia correspondent reports that Tatartchev is under increasing pressure to resign, because of what Prime Minister Ivan Kostov has called, "an obvious retreat from the duty of magistrates to defend citizens from criminals."

But, Tatartchev has a year left in his term of office, which can only be interrupted by the Supreme Judicial Council. The Council is comprised of the same magistrates, who have been so heavily criticized - and are believed unlikely to remove Tatartchev.

The governing Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) does not have the two-thirds majority in Parliament for a constitutional amendment, which would be required to remove Tatartchev.

The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) - the former Communist Party - which has harshly attacked Tatartchev for his strong anti-Communist rhetoric, is now defending him. The BSP says the episode is an attempt by the UDF to gain political control over the independent judiciary.