Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bulgarian NGO Demands Release of Bulgarian Businessman Detained in Romania

Sofia News Agency

31 May 2007, Thursday

Bulgarian non-governmental organisation Justice-Bulgaria Foundation demanded on Thursday the release of controversial Bulgarian businessman Stamen Stanchev, detained in Romania on corruption charges.

The NGO outlined its demands in an open letter addressed to Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, the Foreign Ministry and the Parliament, as well as European Commissioner for justice Franco Frattini and former European Parliament rapporteur for Bulgaria Geoffrey van Orden.

"Because of the rapidly deteriorating political climate in Romania in 2006 and the business interests of certain Romanian politicians, a malicious investigation against cabinet ministers and several employees of the government was started, which included Stamen Stanchev and several other foreign businessmen," the statement read.

"The reasons are absurd and are not based on any facts, because Stanchev did nothing except offer his services as a consultant, which resulted in serious benefits for the Bulgarian state," the letter goes on to say.

The appeal, which describes Stanchev as a Bulgarian businessman specializing in consulting energy sector privatisations, demands that Romanian authorities remove the travel restrictions imposed on him

Romanian investigators arrested Stanchev in November, but later released him on condition that he would not leave Bucharest.

Prosecutors see him as the brains behind the industrial espionage network, whose goal was to obtain key documentation pertaining to the privatisation of strategic industrial assets in order to win consultancy contracts.

The letter goes on to accuse Romania of breaching Stanchev's human rights by refusing him the right to exit the country and claims his family, including a seriously sick child, are severely distressed by his absence.

"If the ghost of Ceausescu can divide a functioning democracy [in Romania], then it is our civic duty to defend democracy with its only tools - free speech and intolerance to injustice," the appeal concludes.

The letter is signed by the NGO's chairman, Sezgin Mumun, known for his fight against the perpetrators of the so-called "regeneration process", when ethnic Turks in Bulgaria had to change their names forcibly with Bulgarian ones.

The process was part of the communist party's policy in the mid 1980s, which led to a massive exodus of ethnic Turks from Bulgaria to Turkey, while others, including Mumun, were jailed.

Mumun is a harsh critic of Bulgaria's ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party and its leader Ahmed Dogan, and has recently allied himself to Sofia mayor Boyko Borissov.

Justice-Bulgaria Foundation was created last month from the merger of seven smaller NGOs.

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