Bulgarian Police Re-Activate Campaign Of Harrassment And Intimidatation Of Members Of UMO "Ilinden" Pirin

May 12, 2008

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Bulgarian Police In the last few weeks Bulgarian police have re-activated a campaign of harassment and intimidation of members of UMO "Ilinden" PIRIN in the Blagoevgrad and Simitli districts of Bulgaria.

The Ministry of the Interior has identified 180 members of UMO Ilinden PIRIN to be interrogated by the police. Such persons have been told that it is obligatory for them to attend an interview, without being given a reason why, only being told that they are being called as witnesses. When the interviewees ask the police for the name of the accused, there is no answer. Some have been told orally to attend police stations without written notification.

The interviews are underway and typical questions in this "investigation" include:
1. Have you signed an application form to join OMO "Ilinden" - PIRIN?
2. Who gave you the application form?
3. Were you abroad in the period when the signatures for the registration of party were being collected?
4. Are you or have you been a member other political parties?
5. Have you received any money to become a member of OMO Ilinden PIRIN?
6. What is your ethnicity?

As part of the interrogation, police force the interviewee to sign their name up to 20 times (while sitting and standing) in order to determine whether the signature was the same as the one on the application form to join the party. This is absurd requirement given that the police have no membership forms to compare the signatures with, as the documents are in the possession of OMO Ilinden PIRIN (under Bulgarian law, only personal details of party members are submitted to the authorities and not signatures). Moreover, some persons were required to sign blank sheets of paper, which could later be misused by the police.

This latest campaign of intimidation and harassment follows a similar one in 2006, when Bulgarian police summoned for interrogation almost 6,000 members of UMO "Ilinden" PIRIN.

UMO "Ilinden" PIRIN condemns the continued harassment of its members by the Bulgarian police. The action being carried out by an official organ of the Bulgarian state is unbecoming of a Member-State of the European Union and the Council of Europe. It must cease immediately.

UMO "Ilinden" PIRIN would like to remind the Bulgarian state of its obligations in the case of United Macedonian Organisation Ilinden PIRIN and others v. Bulgaria (application No. 59489/00) - judgment of 20/10/2005, final on 20/01/2006 (a case which continues to be officially monitored by the Council of Europe and also closely being watched by the European Union) in which the re-registration of UMO "Ilinden" PIRIN is an integral part of execution.

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