Bulgarian lawmakers escorted out of parliament past protesters

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2013 1:45 AM

SOFIA (Reuters) - More than 100 Bulgarian lawmakers, ministers and journalists were escorted out of parliament early on Wednesday after being trapped inside for about eight hours by anti-corruption protesters outside.

Police forced a pathway through hundreds of Bulgarians who have been protesting for 40 days against a government decision to name a media magnate as security chief which they see as an example of private interests controlling state institutions.

The government's withdrawal of the appointment last month failed to quell public discontent in the European Union's poorest country and protesters in the capital Sofia are now calling for the cabinet's resignation.

"Police reacted very adequately, policemen did their job perfectly although protesters behaved extremely aggressively," Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev told reporters.

"We will try to find those who threw stones at police and deputies."

Policemen escorted deputies and ministers out of the building at around 3:00 a.m. in police vans. Two hours later, diggers started removing the protesters' barricades made of park benches, garbage containers and stones.

Parliamentary speaker Mihail Mikov said Wednesday's planned parliament session should be canceled and that deputies should not turn up for work until order was restored.

Ivailo Kalfin, a member of the European parliament and a former foreign minister, wrote on Facebook: "With apologies to the millions, who voted two months ago, we need new elections."

The protests, which demand the resignation of the Socialist-led cabinet, have turned violent with some clashes with police and stone throwing.

Several protesters were treated for head injuries, a hospital official said. Two police officers were also wounded.

An earlier attempt to get deputies out of the parliament with a bus led to a scuffle with police. It was aborted after protesters threw bottles, stones and other objects at the bus, while others sat in front of it.

"They threw stones ... at the bus and they call it a peaceful protest," Bulgarian Socialist Party deputy Anton Kutev, who was trapped inside parliament, told BNT1 state television.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Elizabeth Piper)