The latest exclusive investigative report by Valya Ahchieva reveals that the Bulgarian citizenship of the chairman of Sofia City Court Alexey Trifonov is highly doubtful.
[Important notice: Previous Valia Ahchieva’s investigative reports published in this website have been widely picked up by Bulgarian media outlets, but very few of them asked for authorization. Those who wish to re-publish this and other investigative reports should clearly identify the source EUelectionsBulgaria.eu, a website created by Brussels-based journalist Georgi Gotev as a free press project to cover the European elections and the political context in Bulgaria. For contacts: email@example.com]
By Valia Ahchieva
The rule of law is a fundamental principle of democracy. This is exactly what distinguishes democratic societies from totalitarian regimes.
The Constitution states that the Republic of Bulgaria is based on rule of law and is governed by the Constitution and the laws of the country. A Law on the Judiciary defines special requirements for those who hold magistrates’ positions – investigators, prosecutors and judges. They must have high moral qualities and be only Bulgarian citizens.
This is because magistrates resolve disputes and cases. Magistrates decide human destinies. And precisely because of this, there should not be a shadow of any dependency, as well as doubts about professional morality and ethics.
Magistrates should not compromise on these things.
Because this is about the guarantee of an independent judiciary. And the guarantee that any court case will be resolved fairly.
In this context, the election of a new President of the Sofia City Court, since the end of last year, has attracted my attention for several reasons.
Above all, this biggest court in Bulgaria has become known for one of its chairmen having been convicted for the illegal use of special intelligence means (SRS in Bulgarian, meaning wiretapping). Thus it was allowed that the State Agency for National Security (DANS) would eavesdrop on the information system of the Ministry of Interior (MVR).
And two years ago, a diplomatic scandal broke out in the same court, because of the use of special intelligence means against embassies in Sofia. The services had made requests for wiretapping foreign diplomats in violation of international law. The Sofia City Court has approved the wiretaps for a reason nobody explained.
That is why I am interested in the appointment of Judge Alexey Trifonov as President of the Sofia City Court. This appointment is currently being appealed.
Judge Alexey Trifonov is elected by the Supreme Judicial Council, for whose members the same very high criteria apply. These are actually the magistrates’ human resources service. They are the high priests of the judiciary.
And members of the judges’ college in the SJC made recommendations for candidate Alexey Trifonov. And no one noticed where he was born – in the city of Kursk, in the USSR.
This is also written in the documents that Judge Trifonov has submitted to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), as well as in his CV, which was published on the website of the Ministry of Justice, by the time he was Deputy Minister of Justice.
In this sense, the case with Alexey Trifonov is not like the one with the mayor of Varna Municipality – Ivan Portnih. He is not like Elena Yoncheva. Or as Liliana Pavlova. They are from mixed marriages, but born in Sofia.
Nobody from the members of the SJC has drawn attention to the fact that Alexey Trifonov is a child of mixed marriage, but was born in a foreign country – in the USSR. Nobody paid attention to this. Neither in his first appointment as an investigator in 1998 nor in his further appointment as a judge, or now, when applying for his new key post, of a highest public interest.
Why did not any of the cadres in the judicial system verify the existence of the objective circumstance: on what legal basis and on from what moment in time Alexey Trifonov became a Bulgarian citizen?
Because he has an identity card and is entered in the Register of Bulgarian Citizens, but the question is how is documented the fact of how Alexey acquired Bulgarian citizenship, as he is not born in Bulgaria?
We remember the public discussion a few years ago about Georgi Pirinski’s inability to run for President of the Republic of Bulgaria because he was not born in Bulgaria either.
It is therefore inexplicable that none of the members of the SJC has made efforts to verify the fulfillment of the most important requirement for a person acceding to this post – to be a Bulgarian citizen. And they had to check whether Alexey had dual citizenship. Because Article 162 of the Judicial System Act does not allow magistrates to have dual citizenship. To be investigator, prosecutor or judge, one must have Bulgarian citizenship only.
That’s why I decided to do what the SJC didn’t.
After I saw in Alexey Trifonov’s autobiography that he was born abroad, I wanted to find the answer to the question: On what legal basis and when did Alexey acquire Bulgarian citizenship?
TI did the verification by collecting information from public sources as well as from the Access to Public Information Act.
Alexey was born in the USSR, in the city of Kursk, in 1972. His mother Alla is a Soviet citizen, and his father Boyan is a Bulgarian citizen.
In 1991, Alexey graduated from the National School of Ancient Languages and Culture in Sofia. I turned to the high school under the Access to Public Information Act and the director Mariela Papazova told me that Alexey was enrolled there as a student on 6 July 1987 as a Bulgarian citizen.
Then, in writing, I asked General Directorate “GRAO” (General Directorate of Civil Registration and Administrative Service), from what date, on what basis and in what order, Alexey was registered as a Bulgarian citizen in the Registers of the Population? The director, Mr. Ivan Getov, directed me for answers to the municipal authorities in the Ilinden and Mladost districts of Sofia Municipality, as they hold the data for the person in question. I turned to them and got an answer only from the Mladost district. The letter I received says that since 1990, the family of the person resides in the territory of the Mladost district. According to the data contained in his personal registration card, the Bulgarian Act of birth of Alexey Trifonov was compiled only on 13.10.1988 in the Ilinden District of the Sofia Municipality, and on that basis Alexey was entered in the Population Register of Bulgarian citizens.
This means that the reason for entering Alexey as a Bulgarian citizen is the birth certificate, compiled more than 16 years after his birth!
Namely – on 13.10.1988. There is no mention of the legal basis on which the Bulgarian Act of Birth of Alexey was delivered.
Since in Bulgaria the competent authority with regard to Bulgarian citizenship is the Ministry of Justice, I turned to them. In this ministry, the registers of the persons who have recovered, acquired or lost Bulgarian citizenship through Decrees of the Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria under the new Constitution of 1991 are kept. And under the old Constitution, this was done through the Decrees of the State Council of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. The Ministry of Justice also issues certificates of citizenship on the basis of Art.39 of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, through a documentary procedure, which proves whether a person is a Bulgarian citizen or not.
I asked the Ministry of Justice what were the legal grounds for obtaining Bulgarian citizenship from the respective person born in 1972 in the territory of the USSR, with a mother – a Soviet citizen and a father – a Bulgarian citizen?
The acting Minister of Justice, Desislava Achladova, told me that in 1972 a Convention was in force acting as a bilateral international treaty between the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the USSR to prevent the emergence of dual citizenship. The Convention applies to cases where one parent is a citizen of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the other parent is a USSR national. This Convention also provides for the choice of parents by mutual consent, of the nationality of the child of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria or the citizenship of the USSR.
In the described hypothesis, the Bulgarian birth nationality can be acquired by the child born in 1972 only if his / her parents are within one year of his / her birth – ie. until July 1973, they submitted a joint Declaration, which they choose for their child Bulgarian citizenship.
In the event that such a Declaration was not filed within one year from the birth, the child was deemed to be a national of the country in whose territory he was born.
In this case – the USSR. Under this hypothesis, the only legal opportunity to acquire Bulgarian citizenship is now naturalization. The grounds for this is the presence of a parent – Bulgarian citizen.
The procedure is governed by Article 29 and following Articles of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act adopted in 1998 and in force since 19.02.1999.
However, according to the documents I have collected, such a choice of Bulgarian citizenship for Alexey, according the opportunity his parents have had, had not been used. This is confirmed by the fact that more than 16 years after his birth, in the registers of the population of Bulgaria there is no data of Alexey’s existence.
If such a choice was made by his parents, Alexey’s Birth Act would be re-constituted in Bulgaria within one year of the declared choice of Bulgarian citizenship. Such are the procedures for entering in the Civil Status Registers of Bulgarian Citizens.
It is also strange that Alexey was enrolled as a student at the Language and Culture High School in Sofia, on 6 July 1987 as a Bulgarian citizen, and he was registered as a Bulgarian citizen in the Register of the Bulgarian population … after more than a year! This happened on 14.10.1988, based on the birth certificate made the previous day!
That is, Bulgarian citizenship was declared at the High School without Alexey having such a Bulgarian citizenship!
It is also unclear with a document of which country Alexey crossed the state border to come to Bulgaria, as he was born on the territory of the USSR and on 06.07.1987 he was enrolled as a student at the most elite school in Sofia at that time. But a year and a half later, in October 1988, he was recorded as a Bulgarian citizen. It was only then that he had the opportunity to obtain personal documents (passport) only on the basis of the birth certificate issued in 1988.
I was also very impressed by the fact that, in his detailed expert response, the Ministry of Justice did not mention the existence of a legal means of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship, as it was available to Alexey.
It is not accidental that the Bulgarian Population Registers have not reflected on what legal basis Alexey was registered as a Bulgarian citizen.
Therefore, I turned to Alexey Trifonov himself, who is a senior magistrate and Chairman of the Sofia City Court, with the same question:
On what basis has he become a Bulgarian citizen after being born in the USSR?
Judge Trifonov refused to meet me on the grounds that he never meets with journalists. But he replied to me through the Press Center of the Court that he “always had only Bulgarian citizenship and served in the Bulgarian army. His father is a Bulgarian and according to Article 25, paragraph 1 of the Constitution “, a Bulgarian citizen is anyone to whom at least one parent is a Bulgarian citizen. Concerning the legal basis, other institutions are competent to answer”.
I’m shocked by this answer!
Never before in the Bulgarian legislation governing Bulgarian citizenship was there a legal opportunity to acquire Bulgarian citizenship, through engagement in the Bulgarian army!
And more! The constitutional provision cited in the reply proved to be contained in the … Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria in force since 1991!
And it deals with cases, 19 years after the birth of Alexey Trifonov, and 3 years, after he was entered in the Registers as a Bulgarian citizen, having no legal right for it!
The basic principle of determining the nationality of each person is the application of the legislation in force at the time of his birth. In this case, on 2 July 1972, when Alexey was born in the USSR, the provision of Article 6 (d) of the 1968 Bulgarian Citizenship Act was in force. According to this article, the person does not acquire Bulgarian citizenship at the time of his birth, when only one of his parents is a Bulgarian citizen and the child was born in the territory of the parent who is a foreign citizen.
In other words, even if there was no bilateral international treaty between the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the USSR (there was a Convention), Alexey would not again acquire Bulgarian citizenship at the time of his birth, due to the legal framework of that time.
Because of the shocking response received by no one but by a magistrate with 20 years of experience in the judiciary as a judge, I again asked the competent authority – the Ministry of Justice, as Judge Alexey Trifonov himself advised ne to ask them in his letter:
Is it possible that a person born abroad in 1972 would automatically acquire Bulgarian citizenship under Article 25 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria?
And again I received a reply from the acting Minister of Justice – Mrs. Desislava Achladova, who is responsible for Bulgarian citizenship.
The answer is that it is not possible under this article of the Constitution to automatically acquire Bulgarian citizenship, as the lower paragraph – Paragraph 6 of the same Article 25, also mentioned by Alexey Trifonov, it is said that the terms and procedure for acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship are defined by law.
And this is the Law of Bulgarian Citizenship. The acting minister Achladova pointed out that in the general provisions of this law “it is explicitly stated that Bulgarian citizenship is governed by the normative acts in force when the facts or events related to citizenship occur”.
In other words, it is important which law is in effect when Alexey was born?
But Judge Alexey Trifonov cites the Constitution, adopted 19 years after his birth!
What is the conclusion from the documents and expert opinions?
It’s the fact that the largest court in Bulgaria is headed by a person who is entered in the Registers of the population as a Bulgarian citizen, without legal grounds.
At the same time, this person has been serving for 20 years as a judge for which only Bulgarian citizenship is required.
I turned to the Russian municipal authorities in Kursk with the question: Is Alexey Trifonov a Russian citizen?
They wrote me back that under Russian law only three institutions can answer this question: the President of the Russian Federation, their interior or the foreign ministry.
That’s how the independence of a magistrate is called into question.