Red_Square Sofia - Part 12

posted by Dimiter on 2006/11/21 14:08

[ Red_Square Sofia ]

"A death in Sofia revives memories of a shady past"

is one of the article titles that reports on the sudden death of Bozhidar Doychev, 61, who had served since 1991 as director of the Bulgarian National Intelligence Service archive.

SOFIA: In a Cold War-style drama in one of the last places in Europe to
tackle its Communist-era legacy, the sudden death of the man in charge of a key
Bulgarian secret police archive that was about to be declassified has created a
political uproar.

The man, Bozhidar Doychev, 61, had served since 1991 as director of the National
Intelligence Service archive, which is believed to contain information about the
1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II and the assassination of the Bulgarian
dissident Georgi Markov, as well as records on current officials who may have
worked for the secret police.

Doychev was found dead at his desk on Wednesday, shot in the head with his own
pistol. But news of the death did not filter out until Thursday, when a London-based
Internet news service broke the story. Only on Friday did Bulgarian officials
confirm the report, calling his death a probable suicide.

Opposition legislators and commentators immediately contested the official
explanation of Doychev's death and alleged that the failure to report it
suggested a cover-up. They based their accusations on the fact that the
Parliament is preparing to vote on declassifying all of the Communist-era state
security files, including the archive of the foreign intelligence directorate
overseen by Doychev.

Atanas Atanasov, the former director of the National Security Service and now
an opposition legislator, said Monday that Doychev's death so close to the vote
had raised "immediate deep suspicion" of foul play.

He said that he connected the death to the forthcoming opening of the files,
adding, "Clearly someone is worried that it will become clear that some of them
are missing."

Many people believe that Doychev's death was somehow related to destruction
of files on behalf of people who want their participation in the former security
services to remain hidden.

Bulgaria is the last country of the former Soviet bloc to have reached no
consensus on how to deal with its Communist past, specifically the historical
record contained in the archive.

Metodi Andreev, former head of the commission on the state security files,
said Monday on the national BTV news that Doychev had worked at the archive for
years "and followed the letter of the law." If such a man was going to commit
suicide, Andreev said, "he would not have done it while on duty in order to not
burden the service."

Alexander Kashamov, a lawyer specializing in freedom of information, called
the failure of officials to announce Doychev's death "very suspicious" at a time
when public debate on the archive is hot.

With passions over the affair mounting, the Bulgarian prime minister, Sergei
Stanishev, denied over the weekend that there had been a cover-up.

"The information about the death of Bozhidar Doychev was not deliberately
hidden by the military prosecutor's office," Stanishev said.

According to Spas Iliev, the regional military prosecutor leading the
investigation into Doychev's death, the delay in informing the public was "nothing
abnormal."

"We don't have a practice to announce that an investigation has begun," he
said. "We have to gather verified facts, and then we can announce them."

Iliev said there had been no apparent signs of force or struggle at the site
where Doychev died. "The leading version is suicide for personal reasons," he
said. He declined to comment further on grounds that the investigation was
ongoing.

If Doychev did commit suicide, some people who knew him said, he must have
come under pressure.

"I think there was some kind of pressure to destroy some compromising
documents, but since he didn't think he could resist such pressure, he decided
to put an end to his life," said Serafim Stoikov, a former director of the
Interior Ministry archive, who had known Doychev since 1997.

Doychev's death was first reported by kafene.net, a London-based Internet
news service started by journalists formerly with the BBC's Bulgaria section.
The service cited as its source an anonymous representative of the European
Commission.

"Seventeen years after 1989, we still learn about such events from the
Western media," complained Atanasov, a member of Parliament for the anti-communist
Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria.

The vote on the bill to declassify and transfer all Communist-era state
security files to an independent commission appointed by the legislature is
expected in the next week or two.

Kashamov, who works for the Access to Information foundation, a nongovernment
organization, said the bill in its current form would go a long away toward
shedding light on Bulgaria's past and expressed hope that it would not be
watered down with amendments.

He said all parties represented in the Parliament supported the bill's
provisions for total declassification, except the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the
former Communists, who were seeking to limit the scope of files that would
become publicly accessible.

Proponents say that the total opening of the files will clear up suspicions
about current figures in public life in Bulgaria and their roles in the
Communist-era Durjavna Sigurnost, or State Security, services.

The archive Doychev oversaw contains Bulgaria's post-1989 intelligence record
and the entire documentation of the Durjavna Sigurnost foreign intelligence
directorate.

The archive is of special interest because of information it is believed to
contain about the 1981 assassination attempt on the pope in Rome by Mehmet Ali
Agca of Turkey. Bulgarian intelligence services were widely blamed, but no
Bulgarian participation was proved in three trials in Italian courts.

The files are also believed to contain information about the assassination of
Markov, who was killed by a ricin pellet injected from an umbrella on Waterloo
Bridge in London in 1978.

The Bulgarian Internet news service mediapool.bg said Friday that there had
been two other high-profile apparent suicides recently. On Oct. 13, a former
interior minister, Lyubomir Nachev, shot himself at his mother's home in
Karnobat, it said, and two days earlier, the director of the "intellectual
property" division of the General Directorate of the Fight Against Organized
Crime, killed himself.

Resource: International Herald Tribune

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Sofia

Welcome to the [Sofia] weblog, a part of the Kakanien Revisited weblog network. The Team - Dimiter, Assen and Mira - all three PhD students in the Department of History and Theory of Culture at the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" will try to create an image - although sometimes a faceted and incoherent one - of the Bulgarian academia, culture, ongoing events, ideas, realities and virtual spaces. All of you - our readers - are warmheartedly invited to join us in this endeavor with your comments and suggestions.
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