Bulgarian parliament okays arrest of nationalist party leader

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2015 8:11 AM

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's parliament voted on Wednesday to allow the arrests of a nationalist party leader and a fellow party member in connection with their involvement in an October fracas with students.

The vote followed a request by Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov to strip Attack party leader Volen Siderov and Desislav Chukolov of their immunity from prosecution, opening the way for them to face possible hooliganism charges.

Both had given up their immunity just before the vote.

"We've not fled from justice and in this sense the request would have just a repressive function. I will defend myself on my own," the 59-year-old former journalist Siderov told parliament.

The arrests were endorsed by deputies in a 124/19 vote.

Siderov, accompanied by Attack deputies and supporters, entered the building of the Balkan country's National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts on Oct. 23.

In widely-viewed television footage, he appeared to verbally attack some of the students present, triggering a vocal response from them amid a tense standoff.

When police officers subsequently escorted Sidorov and his group out of the building through a crowd of angry students, footage appeared to show a man hitting Siderov in the face.

After the incident, Siderov claimed he had been punched by a police officer and called himself a victim of police violence, adding an attempt had been made on his life.

The prosecutor's office said Siderov had behaved with an "extraordinary degree of cynicism."

Last year, Siderov was charged with hooliganism over an alleged involvement in an airport scuffle. He denied injuring a male passenger and a policeman in an incident on a runway bus at the airport in the Black Sea city of Varna. That case continues.

Attack, which won 4.5 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last year, is a noisy critic of the United States and Bulgaria's NATO membership, was the only Bulgarian party to openly champion Russia's intervention in Crimea.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Toby Chopra)