SOFIA (Reuters) - Prosecutors raided the offices of two of Bulgarian President Rumen Radev’s staff on Thursday as part of investigations, prompting thousands to take to the streets of Sofia later in protest at their action.
Many protesters saw the showy raids as an attack on the head of state and accused prosecutors of deliberately delaying probes into the country’s graft-prone political elites and local oligarchs.
Radev tried to block the appointment of the chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev last year, amid popular protests that Geshev would do little to tackle high-level corruption in Bulgaria, which is ranked as the most corrupt member state in the European Union by Transparency International.
Prosecutors said on Thursday they searched the offices of Radev’s secretary on legal affairs and anti-corruption and his advisor on security and defence as part of two separate probes into influence peddling and disclosure of state secrets.
Both men were detained by police for 24 hours. Prosecutors said they are yet to decide whether they will bring charges.
Radev’s legal secretary denied any wrongdoing, and his security advisor could not be reached for comment.
Radev declined to comment on the raids directly but accused prosecutors of protecting corrupt individuals. The raids come amid rising political tension between the president and the centre-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov ahead of general elections next spring.
Radev has often criticised the centre-right government of doing too little to uproot endemic corruption and has slammed prosecutors for cherry-picking their probes and working in cahoots with the government.
Protesters, many of whom were supporters of both left and right-wing opposition political parties, chanted “Geshev is disgrace” and “Resign”.
Geshev has denied his office has a targeted approach and pledged to go after any suspected official.
Despite a declared political will to crack down on graft, Sofia is yet to jail a single high-ranking official on corruption charges.
Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Alexandra Hudson