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Bulgaria Says 140 Lawmakers Were Spies for Communist-Era Police

By Elizabeth Konstantinova
Bloomberg News
September 5, 2007

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Some 140 Bulgarian lawmakers served as agents for the secret police before the collapse of communism, a commission established by Parliament found.

The commission, set up in March to open the archives of the former State Security Committee, identified on its Web site lawmakers who collaborated with services created by the communist regime in 1945 and 1989 to suppress dissent through mass surveillance and forced labor camps.
The group screened 1,815 lawmakers who have served in Bulgaria's six parliaments over the past 17 years. Communist rule in Bulgaria ended with the resignation of President Todor Zhivkov on Nov. 10, 1989. The first democratic elections were held in June 1990, and the communist system was dismantled over the next few years.

``Around 10 percent of the public service offices after 1989 were and are held by people connected with the former State Security Committee,'' commission member Ekaterina Boncheva said in a phone interview today. ``Some served as agents, others allowed their houses to be used for meetings with secret police informers.''

The list includes President Georgi Parvanov, who was a member of parliament between 1995 and 2001, when he was elected president. He was re-elected for a second term, which started in January, when Bulgaria joined the European Union.

Bulgaria passed a law in 2006 requiring the names of public figures who worked for the communist secret services to be published. It first said Parvanov was a former agent in July and sent him 29 pages of evidence, which he posted on his Web site.

Historical Issues

Parvanov has said that his collaboration with the secret services consisted of consultancies on historical issues. The commission established that 23 members of the three post-communist presidential administrations, some of whom now serve as Bulgarian ambassadors abroad, collaborated with the secret police, Boncheva said.

The exposures don't bear legal consequences for former informants or spies. Other former communist states such as Poland and the Czech Republic have also sought to deal with the legacy of the communist era. A law passed in Poland this year forced some 700,000 Poles to declare they didn't collaborate with the secret police or be fired.

The Bulgarian State Security Committee served the communist regime running the Balkan country between 1945 and 1990. It was accused of killing Bulgarian dissident writer Georgy Markov in London with a poisoned pellet injected by the so-called ``Bulgarian Umbrella'' in 1978. It was also accused of plotting a failed assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981. Many of its files have been destroyed.

The organization was transformed in 1991 into four separate agencies dealing with intelligence, security, protection of state officials and organized crime.



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