Sofia, November 4, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
A special committee of Bulgaria’s Parliament has recommended that the National Assembly agree to requests by the Prosecutor-General for the lifting of the immunity and the arrest of Ataka leader Volen Siderov and Ataka MP Dessislav Chukolov in connection with two rowdy incidents in central Sofia.
However, several days remain before MPs will vote on the requests by Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov and the recommendations by the all-party parliamentary committee, to allow the deadlines for the two to voluntarily give up their immunity to lapse. Siderov and Chukolov, who deny wrongdoing in connection with the intended charges of hooliganism and intimidation, have said that they would not give up the immunity they hold as MPs.
The requests follow two incidents in October, one at a late-night liquor store, the other at the National Academy for Film and Theatre Arts.
In the first incident, Siderov and Chukolov were involved in a confrontation with shopkeepers at the store, where the two MPs for the pro-Russian party alleged contraband was being sold. A check by police at the time found no contraband. Eyewitnesses told prosecutors that the two MPs appeared to be under the influence of liquor.
In the second incident – which was followed two days later by a similar incident – Siderov and Chukolov intruded on students at the theatre academy. It is alleged that during the incident, Siderov seized a student’s mobile phone as she attempted to film the incident, with Siderov allegedly also causing minor injury to the student.
Procedurally, MPs that are the subject of a request by the Prosecutor-General for the removal of their immunity have up to 14 days to relinquish it voluntarily. After the latest incident involving Siderov, a proposal has been made to reduce this figure to five days, but it has not yet been put to Parliament. GERB, the centre-right party that is Parliament’s largest, also has initiated talks on changing the constitution to cut back the blanket immunity given to MPs, to limit it to members’ conduct in the chamber.
GERB’s Dimitar Glavchev, who headed the committee on the two requests by the prosecution, told reporters on November 4 – when it had been expected that the first request on the removal of immunity would be the first agenda item, though it was moved down the agenda – that on the issue of arrest, the how and when was to be decided by the prosecution.
Glavchev said that in the vote on the request by the prosecution for the arrest of the two Ataka MPs, representatives of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and minority party the Bulgarian Democratic Centre had abstained. In all, the committee vote on the matter of the arrest of Siderov and Chukolov was 10 in favour, two against and three absentions.
“Ataka were understandably opposed, their motives were more procedural, but we told them that it is not our job to deal with the details in such detail, but to ensure equality between Bulgarian citizens and to protect the principles of the constitution,” Glavchev said of the committee’s meeting, which was held behind closed doors.
A vote in Parliament is expected after November 9, most likely on November 11 because Bulgaria’s National Assembly customarily does not sit on Mondays and Tuesdays and because November 11 marks 14 days since the receipt of Tsatsarov’s request for the arrest of the two.