Bulgarian Court Rules against Info Blackout on Govt Airbus MisuseSociety | April 23, 2013, Tuesday // 16:30| views
Former Bulgarian PM, Boyko Borisov, is known to be an avid amateur football player. Photo by BGNES
The Sofia Administrative Court has ruled to revoke the silent refusal of the government to provide information on flights with Bulgaria's "Air Force 1" requested by former Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov.
The use of the government Airbus became grounds for a scandal last summer when it emerged that the PM ordered the plane's pilots to fly to the Black Sea city of Varna two low-tier football teams close to him and his friend, controversial former Member of the Parliament from Borisov's Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party GERB, Emil Dimitrov, after losing a bet in a card game.
The claims were never proven with documented evidence.
In August 2012, bTV reporter Konstantin Karadzhov asked to have access to the said requests, but got a silent refusal. He sent a second inquiry in November 2012, but once again the Head of the PR Office of the Council of Ministers, Nikolay Boev, failed to reply not only within the 14-day legal deadline, but he did not provide any answer.
Karadzhov appealed the refusal. In Court, the only explanation given by the government legal counsel was that the information had to be provided not by them, but by the aircraft's crew. The Court rejected the explanation on grounds the Council of Ministries was the one to redirect the request to the so-called Flight Crew 28 and then notify the journalist, notwithstanding the fact records of flights are kept by the government as well.
According to the magistrates, the requested information was not classified, thus it could not be deemed a threat to national security and public order and the refusal was a violation of the access to information right and legislation.
The rule can be appealed within 14 days with the Supreme Administrative Court.
Human rights activists are quoted in saying the appeal or lack of appeal will show the position on the caretaker government on attempts to conceal scandalous information.
If it doesn't appeal, the Council of Ministries has 14 days to give an opinion on the request, otherwise the State servant in charge faces a fine of BGN 200 to BGN 2 000. Under the same law, Nikolay Boev should have been fined already.
Back in August, Borisov insisted he had not done anything wrong, and that the infamous flight has been requested and paid for by the Bulgarian Football Union.
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