July 8 (BTA) – President Rumen Radev said here Wednesday that the bodyguards who did not allow three opposition politicians to visit a public beach in Rossenets park, on the southern Black Sea coast, work for the National Service for Protection (NSP). While the NSP functions under the President’s Office, Radev said that he has no control over its day-to-day operations. According to the NSP Act, the head of State appoints the Protection Service’s chief and provides general guidance and control.
The President made a special statement on the matter which was broadcast live by bTV.
It comes a day after the leader of the non-parliamentary opposition Democratic Bulgaria coalition, Hristo Ivanov, and two coalition activists tried to reach by boat the beach which is adjacent to a property with a marina and a palatial home known to be used by the founder of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), Ahmed Dogan, as his summer residence. They had to use the boat because the beach, a public state property, cannot be reached by land by members of the public. As Ivanov and his companions stepped on the beach, bodyguards who refused to identify themselves and say whether or not they were from the NSP, pushed them back into the water and did not allow them to remain there. The altercation was streamed live on Facebook and has since been viewed by close to 1 million people.
Responding to inquiries whether or not the participating bodyguards were members of its staff, the NSP did not give a clear answer, saying in a statement only that it would not allow to be drawn into political campaigns.
The President said in his statement: “As for the calls that I exercise my powers with regard to the NSP, let me remind you that the NSP Act, which was adopted in 2015, practically took away from the President any real powers for real leadership and control over this service. The additional persons protected by the NSP are determined by the Executive branch of power and control is exercised by Parliament,” said Radev.
Only the President, Vice President, National Assembly Chair, Prime Minister, the Prosecutor General, as well as former presidents, are entitled to NSP protection, according to the NSP Act. Other politicians and office holders, including MPs, can be protected by the NSP when they are under a threat and this is decided by a three-member commission, consisting of the head of the State Agency for National Security, the Interior Ministry Chief Secretary and the NSP chief.
The President said it has been his position throughout that Ahmed Dogan, as well as MRF MP/business owner Delyan Peevski, should not have NSP protection, but the competent commission had decided to the contrary.
Radev has instructed the head of the NSP, Brig.-Gen. Krasimir Stanchev, to convene the three-member commission and reconsider the need to provide NSP protection to Dogan and Peevski.
“If somebody is unable or unwilling to impose order in the security services, but very much wants to hold be morally responsible, they should reinstate my powers by law,” said the President.
He said that the NSP will do an internal probe into the behaviour of the bodyguards involved in the Tuesday incident.
Also, he urged the government, the prosecution service and the local authorities to check the facilities in Rossenets Park and take measures if any violations are found.
“I have always said that Bulgaria will be a prosperous European nation when we deal with lawlessness, strengthen the rule of law and protect the rights of the Bulgarian people. Unfortunately, the law and the rights of people are being trampled. The examples abound, but when constitutional rights are publicly violated, it erodes further the shaken confidence in the statehood. In this situation it is critically important that the competent institutions tell the truth,” said Radev.
The clash between Hristo Ivanov and the NSP bodyguards has prompted the creation of a public event on social media for this Saturday, where people are encouraged to boat to the Rossenets beach. As Wednesday, over 4,000 people had said they are going and some 23,000 said they are interested in the event.
Following the President’s statement, Hristo Ivanov wrote on Facebook that now it is the turn of the Prime Minister to answer some questions: why the State has been providing protection for Dogan and Peevski, how much it has cost the taxpayers, in what way the two are of importance for national security and whether they can’t afford to pay for their own security.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has not commented the incident. LN/