The bomb in Galeria’s headquarters – facts and reactions

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АЕЖ-България

In the morning of Thursday, 10 February, around 5 a.m., a bomb exploded in front of the building of the editorial office of Galeria newspaper in Sofia. The bomb, which contained around 400 grams of TNT, damaged the headquarters of the weekly, but took no victims. In the last weeks the newspaper revealed series of wiretapped conversations between the PM Boiko Borissov, the financial minister Simeon Djankov and the director on the customs agency Vanio Tanov Those conversations are the hottest topic in the Bulgarian media recently.
Later on the same day started the official visit of three European Commissioners in Bulgaria, including the official responsible for the EU’s home affairs Cecilia Malmström. Malmström came to monitor Bulgaria’s progress in completing the Schengen criteria less than a month after Germany and France blocked the country’s admission in the Union’s border-free area due to judicial shortcomings and problems with high-level corruption and organized crime.
Тhe attack аlso coincides with the first year’s anniversary of the start of the “Octopus” police operation, a part of which was the arrest of Alexey Petrov, high state official accused of being the head of the Bulgarian mafia. At the same time, Galeria newspaper is claimed to have strong relations with Petrov and the political party associated with him – RZS.
By now there is no progress with the investigation of the explosion. Two main versions are promoted in the media. According to the first one, the blast was initiated by the team of the newspaper because of its strong political bonds with Petrov and RZS. This version is supported by the Prime Minister Borissov, and the minister of home affairs Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who interpret the blast as an attempt for the destabilization of the Government.
The second version, launched by the editorial team of Galeria, is that the bomb attempt was organized by Government, because of the information published by the newspaper lately. The editor-in-chief of Galeria mentioned that another possible cause of the attack could be a publication against the leader of the Bulgarian far-right political party “Ataka,” Volen Siderov.
The accident caused immediate reactions both in Bulgaria and in the EU, most of which express serious concerns about the media freedom in the country. Still, there is no concrete evidence for any of the above-mentioned versions, all the information in the public space is based mostly on conjenctures and speculations.
Alexey Petrov

By the time he was arrested a year ago, Alexey Petrov was a counselor at DANS. He is a former agent of the secret services, respected for his work against terrorism. Petrov is an expert in corporative security and anti-terrorism and was recently a lector in the University of National and World Economy in Sofia.
Alexey Petrov’s arrest was considered the biggest success of the “Octopus” operation of the police in Bulgaria, which was aimed at destroying a powerful criminal group, involved in abductions, blackmailing and various economic and financial crimes. According to the prosecution, Petrov is the head of the group, which is also linked with prostitution and drugs. Together with the former state official, other 13 people were arrested and accused of participation in an organized criminal structure.
“This is a war between the mafia and the state –let’s see who will survive”, said the Prime Minister Borissov in regard to Petrov’s arrest. The minister of home affairs Tsvetanov confirmed his thesis and guaranteed that there was serious evidence which could lead to effective judgments against the members of the “Octopus”.
However, a year later, most of the arrested people are released due to lack of concrete evidence. Among them is Alexey Petrov, who was put under home detention, but them even this measure was cancelled. Now Petrov has proclaimed himself as one of the strongest critics of the government and even plans to participate in the presidential elections later this year.
Galeria

The “Galeria” weekly, which is part of the strong wave of weekly yellow editions of high circulation, emerged on the media market in October 2009, in the hit of the crisis in media advertising. For the first month, an editor-in-chief of Galeria was the former spokesperson of the Agency for National Security (DANS), Zoia Dimitrova. Actually, the weekly is named by a scandalous secret operation of the agency, aimed at wiretapping and investigating the work of Bulgarian journalists.
When Dimitrova gave up her post, she was replaced with Krisitna Patrashkova, co-founder of Galeria, who is also a chief executive of the newspaper. A deputy-editor-in chief is Yavor Dachkov, a famous Bulgarian journalist who has worked for leading TV and Radio channels, as well as the “Glasove” newspaper.
Patrashkova and Dimitrova are listed as the official owners of the newspaper, but there are versions that the real owners are Nedialko Nedialkov, a former owner of the biggest yellow weekly in Bulgaria, “Weekend”, and Mr. Alexey Petrov, himself. Actually, in the start of the newspaper, he declared his “emotional and ideological” support for the edition. “Galeria” replied with regular publications in support of Petrov, including an open letter to the minister of home affairs, which demanded concrete evidence on the arrest of the former state official.
Recently “Galeria” became the biggest source of scandalous leaks for cases of high-level corruption and conflicts of interests. Its anonymous sources provided it with wiretapped conversations of governmental officials, which gained enourmous publicity mostly in Bulgaria and the countries of the EU. Yet, the edition started disclosing classified information since its first weeks, when it gave publicity to a secret report of DANS.
Reactions to the bomb at the Galeria’s headquarters

Kristina Patrashkova, editor-in-chief, “Galeria”

“This is a polital act. “Galeria” is the biggest critic of the government”, commented Patrashkova a few hours after the blast. According to the editorial team of the newspaper, the bomb attempt was aimed at intimidating the editors, together with their informers. They claim that the attack was organized with structures, strongly linked both with the government and the organized crime. A few days later, Patrashkova announced that “Galeria” is going to come up with a declaration to the international journalist organizations, because the case was covered more objectively by the international media.
Boiko Borissov, Prime Minister

“I am not surprised. We are lucky the organizers acted professionally and did not kill any people. I know that these people are trained for that, and the moment was perfectly chosen. Now the services should act immediately to catch the conspirators”. According to Borissov the people who stand behind the assault are linked with the attacks against other journalists, including the one against Ognian Stefanov, who was severely attacked in 2008. The prime minister added that the evaluation that he will give to DANS and the police depends solely on their success in catching the people, responsible for the blast.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Minister of Internal Affairs
“We need to let the services do their job. In the last few weeks we are witnessing a coincidence between the activation of the organized crime and the political destabilization, coming from the political opposition. Probably somebody aims to keep the status quo of the last twenty years.”
Georgi Parvanov, President of the Republic of Bulgaria

„I am seriously concerned with the fact that there is no respect for the police. We are witnessing a return to the practices of the period of the 90’s.

Tsetska Tsatcheva, President of the Bulgarian Parliament

“The blast is an obnoxious act, especially in the time of the arrival of EU Commissioner for security and home affairs
Pia Hansen, spokesperson of the European Commission

“We are aware of the explosion, but not about the circumstances behind it. We expect Bulgarian authorities to investigate this fully and bring those responsible to justice”.
Alexey Petrov

“The bomb attempt against Galeria is an act, conducted by primitive people”, said Petrov. He commented that the blast is an attempt for drawing away the public attention from the recent scandals with the wiretaps and the non-declared private property of the Minister of Home Affairs Tsvetanov.
Ivan Kostov, leader of Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, former PM

“The ones against the government benefit from the attack. The home affairts minister is losing the battle against corruption and organized crime. The fact, that such an event happens in a moment, when four Commissioners are visiting Bulgaria, means that the control against the criminal contingent has been lost. This is an act of terrorism”.
Sergey Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, former PM

“There are two possible interpretations for the blast. The first one is that the government and the Ministry of Home Affairs are incapable of guaranteeing minimum stability and protection for the citizens. The other one implies that some state agencies act with the same means used by the criminal structures.”
Lutvi Mestan, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS)

“We are not going to exploit the case for political matters. It is unpleasant that such thing is happening, especially in such an important day.”
Ognyan Minchev, Institute for Regional and International Studies, a Sofia-based think-tank,

„Bureaucrats write reports in Brussels and say that what has been done is not sufficient, while Bulgarian bureaucrats are in turn promising to do more. But nothing happens The EU is confounded by the level of penetration of criminal figures in politics and secret services and is a passive observer of the mafia-type action movies unfolding in his country”.