Bulgaria's New Chief Prosecutor to be Sworn in Jan 10

Domestic | January 4, 2013, Friday // 13:26|  views

Sotir Tsatsarov was elected Bulgaria's chief prosecutor in a controversial and highly predictable move by the Supreme Judicial Council, believed to be orchestrated by the ruling GERB party. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Sotir Tsatsarov is to be sworn in as Bulgaria's new prosecutor general on January 10 for a seven-year term, the prosecutor's office announced on Friday.

Bulgaria's highest juridical body elected on December 20 Sotir Tsatsarov to be the new chief prosecutor in a controversial and highly predictable move, believed to be orchestrated by the ruling GERB party.

Tsatsarov, up to now head of the Plovdiv District Court, won the position at the first round, with 18 votes "for", 3 "against" and 3 abstentions.

The selection process for the next chief prosecutor has been denounced by civic groups, while Internet forums in Bulgaria are overflowing with strong criticism and angry reactions.

His two opponents Thursday were Galina Toneva, Deputy Chief Prosecutor, and Borislav Sarafov, head of the Specialized Appellate Prosecutor's Office.

In a scandalous move, Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva closed the council session before putting to the vote the noninations of Galina Toneva and Borislav Sarafov.

What makes the case even more intriguing is that the nominations of the other two candidates were supported by 5 council members each, most of whom decided at the end to cast a vote for Tsatsarov.

According to the justice minister some of the magistrates abandoned their own nominees because they changed their minds in favor of Tsatsarov during the hearing.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev hurriedly signed late on the next day a decree officially appointing controversially elected chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.

The President has thus defied calls made by oppositional parties to block Tsatsarov's appointment.

The opposition had argued that his election by the Supreme Judicial Council on Thursday was non-transparent and orchestrated by the ruling centrist-right GERB of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

Among concerns voiced by various sides after the initial announcement of Tsatsarov's nomination was his alleged closeness to the executive, in particular to Minister of Interior Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov has also spoken positively of Tsatsarov's candidacy.

In addition, the investigative site Bivol.bg claimed Thursday that Tsatsarov made misleading statements regarding his financial circumstances during a prior hearing.

Those concerns were recalled during the discussion at the Supreme Judicial Council Thursday by council member Kalin Kalpakchiev.

Other critics have brought attention to the exceedingly high number of convicting sentences in trials heard by Tsatsarov as a judge.

The election of a new Chief Prosecutor for the country is seen as a key test for the newly constituted Supreme Judicial Council.

In particular, the European Commission has stated it is keeping close track on the procedure as part of its work on the so-called Co-Operation and Verification Mechanism on corruption and organized crime.

On Friday, the European Commission declared that it follows closely Bulgaria's judiciary and home affairs, with a new Co-operation and Verification Mechanism report possible at any time.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's largest human rights group has quit the civic council with the Supreme Judicial Council in the wake of the controversial election.

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Tags: Rosen Plevneliev, Boyko Borisov, GERB, Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Sotir Tsatsarov, Chief Prosecutor, Galina Toneva, Borislav Sarafov, Supreme Judicial Council, executive, Kalin Kalpakchiev, Bulgaria, Justice Minister


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