Police Abuse Romani Man in Bulgaria
07 February 2004
According to ERRC field research, three police officers abused Mr Ridvan Salim Sali, a 44-year-old Romani man, in the town of Targovishte in northeastern Bulgaria, on May 16, 2003. According to Mr Sali's testimony, at around 4:00 or 5:00 PM, Mr Sali went to the S-Koyumdzhiev, a nearby café, with his friend, Mr Rumen Dianov, and sat down at a table. While talking to an acquaintance, Mr Sali reportedly spotted two police officers in uniform and one civilian at an adjacent table. The officers were allegedly drinking alcohol. Mr Sali testified that one of the officers came to the table at which he was sitting and asked, "Are you not going to treat me to a drink?", to which Mr Sali replied that he saw no reason to treat the police officer to a drink. According to Mr Sali, he also told the officer that he did not think it was proper behaviour for an officer on duty to be drunk and ask for drinks in a café. At this point, the officer became angry and asked Mr Sali for his ID card. Mr Sali reportedly told the officer that his wallet with all his money and ID card was in the car with his friends. Mr Sali then asked Mr Dianov, who had arrived at the table, to fetch his wallet from the car. Meanwhile, one of the officers, Officer N.P., brought Mr Sali outside and made him lean up against a car with his back to the officer. Officer N.P. then hit Mr Sali hard on his left leg, causing a bruise, and handcuffed him, according to Mr Sali. The senior officer came out from the café and Mr Dianov handed him Mr Sali's wallet. Mr Sali testified that the officer took his ID card out of the wallet and placed it in his pocket. The officer reportedly then turned to Officer N.P. and the civilian and stated that Mr Sali should be arrested because he did not have an ID card. Mr Sali was then forced into a police vehicle and, during the drive to the police station, Officer N.P. in the front cursed at Mr Sali and punched him in the left eye. Mr Sali reported that his left eye then began to bleed.
At the Targovishte Police Station, another officer questioned Mr Sali, as the arresting officer repeatedly stated that Mr Sali did not have an ID card. Mr Sali told the ERRC he had tried to explain that his ID card was in the arresting officer's pocket, but was told that he was not in a position to make such remarks. According to Mr Sali, the officer then drew up his statement without giving him a copy to read or sign. Mr Sali was reportedly asked if he had any objections, to which he responded that he objected to the drunken officer who arrested him and kept his ID card. Mr Sali stated that he also asked the officers how it was possible to write the report without knowing his personal data, including the number of his ID card, which, according to the police officer arresting him, was missing. At this point, the arresting officer allegedly stated: "You can't do anything to me. I am a friend of Krassimir Kanev, the chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee." At 7:00 PM, Mr Sali was released from police custody, and his friends took him to hospital. On May 17, 2003, Mr Sali filed a complaint against the officers with the District Prosecutor's Office in Targovishte. According to Mr Sali, on May 18, 2003, he went to the hospital in Varna and was issued a medical certificate attesting to the injuries he had sustained at the hands of the police in Targovishte. On May 23, 2003, Mr Sali filed a complaint with the Regional Military Prosecutor's Office in Varna. Mr Sali reported that he received a response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which stated the case would be sent to the Regional Military Prosecutor's Office in Varna, with an explanation that he did not have his ID card at the time he filed the complaint, an illegal act under Bulgarian law. On December 17, 2003, Mr Sali and several witnesses gave testimonial evidence to the Regional Military Prosecutor, who was investigating the actions of Officer N.P. Further information on police abuse of Roma is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: www.errc.org.