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Bulgarian nationalist risks prosecution after airport scuffle

Source: Reuters - Wed, 8 Jan 2014 14:12 GMT
Author: Reuters
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SOFIA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Bulgarian nationalist party leader Volen Siderov could face criminal charges after an airport scuffle prompted the chief prosecutor of the Balkan nation to ask parliament to lift the controversial lawmaker's immunity.

Siderov clashed with a male passenger and a policeman in a runway bus at Varna Airport by the Black Sea on Tuesday. Earlier, he had got into a row on a plane with the female cultural attache at the French Embassy in Sofia.

"The behaviour of deputy Volen Siderov had been extremely outrageous and cynical during the incident," Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said in the request to the parliament to lift Siderov's immunity on Wednesday.

Siderov, whose anti-European Union party holds the balance of power in parliament, denied any wrongdoing. The French embassy in Sofia and the interior ministry condemned what they called Siderov's aggressive behaviour.

Bulgarian lawmakers are protected from prosecution and in most cases only parliament can lift their immunity. Parliament will first meet on January 15 after a New Year break.

A lifting of immunity would allow prosecutors to lay formal charges against the 57-year-old former journalist who said that the incident was a "frame-up", initiated by the Varna regional governor, against whom his party had planned a demonstration on Wednesday.

Siderov called the media "frauds", "hyenas" and "vultures", saying he and his party members had been met by a "group of bandits" at the airport. "I curse you!" the white-haired Siderov shouted when reporters questioned him.

Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest nation, has been criticised by Brussels for failing to show tangible results in imposing strict rule of law and fighting organised crime and corruption.

KINGMAKER

Siderov has earned much of his popularity in recent years after stepping up rhetoric and populist pledges to improve the lives of poor Bulgarians.

His Attack party wants to nationalise energy distributors, raise taxes on the rich and revoke concessions for gold and water granted to foreign companies. It blames the "colonial" West for low wages and high prices in Bulgaria.

The ruling coalition, which groups the Socialist Party and their junior partners, the ethnic Turkish MRF party, controls 120 seats in the 240-seat parliament. That means it has to rely for a majority on the Attack party, which has 23 seats. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, Editing by Alister Doyle)

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