Angry in Bulgaria

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Angry in Bulgaria

Bulgarian prosecutors are howling over remarks by U.S. Ambassador James Pardew, who criticized authorities for failing to combat organized crime and for harassing journalists who expose official corruption.

His remarks at the National Judicial Conference in the capital, Sofia, last week were false and politically motivated, the Bulgarian prosecutors' union said without detailing their charges.

"His statements are manipulative. They are not connected to the objective truth but are aimed at serving certain political interests," the union said Tuesday.

In his speech, Mr. Pardew praised lawmakers for the progress they have made since the collapse of communism but cited "important weaknesses in Bulgaria's judicial system."

The ambassador recognized Bulgaria's progress in strengthening some aspects of the judicial system, including legislation to combat human trafficking, enforce tax collection and establish codes of ethics for magistrates.

"Regrettably," he added, "the authorities, themselves, are locked in a cycle of recrimination and finger-pointing, as police, courts, investigators and prosecutors each blame one another for the failure of the justice system to function properly. All institutions bear a share of the responsibility."

Mr. Pardew said crime bosses are protected from prosecution and even "flaunt their immunity from the law openly."

"Their armed convoys with vanity license plates can be seen throughout the country," he said. "Brazen acts of violence continue to plague Bulgaria with frightening regularity, as criminal groups battle one another, committing murder and mayhem in public."

He noted that Bulgarian authorities interdict "enormous amounts of narcotics and counterfeit currency but, strangely, there are not successful prosecutions of major drug bosses or counterfeiters."

However, prosecutors have found time to investigate the British Broadcasting Corp. for a recent broadcast exposing official corruption. …