France - Bulgaria

Bulgarian MP could face jail after scrap with French diplomat

Volen Siderov, leader of the Bulgarian utrla-nationalist party Ataka
Volen Siderov, leader of the Bulgarian utrla-nationalist party Ataka Open access/Иван]

A far-right Bulgarian MP accused of threatening and bullying a female French diplomat during a plane flight has renounced his parliamentary immunity and could face five years in prison. All 23 MPs from Volen Siderov's party, Ataka, gave up their immunity in solidarity with their chief.

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"Bulgaria was in danger of being expelled from the EU if I kept my immuinty," Siderov, a vociferous critic of the European Union, remarked facetiously when announcing his decision on Wednesday.

He is now likely to be charged with disturbing the peace and causing minor injuries to a police officer after an incident that began on a flight between the capital, Sofia, and the eastern city of Varna and could face a prison sentence of up to five years.

The alleged offences took place on 6 January when passengers on the Sofia-Varna flight complained that Siderov and some other members of Ataka, who appeared to have been drinking, had become rowdy.

One of them was Stéphanie Dumortier, who is responsible for linguistic cooperation at the French embassy in Sofia.

Noticing her accent, Siderov snatched her diplomatic passport and announced that she could be a "terrorist", almost reducing her to tears.

"He was shouting at her while waving his MP's identity card, as if he was carrying out a police interrogation," a witness told the Mediapool website.

The row continued when the plane landed, with the Ataka members coming to blows with passengers who had come to Dumortier's defence, leading to the police intervening and Siderov allgedly striking a police officer.

Siderov has since accused Dumortier of insulting him and his party.

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