World Bulletin/News Desk
More than 100 Bulgarian judges protested on Friday against the dismissal of a judge and government critic, accusing the top legal body of bias and double standards.
The Supreme Judicial Council sacked Miroslava Todorova, a chair of the judicial professional body, the Union of Judges, for taking too long over judging three cases.
"Todorova is one of the most prominent critics of the Supreme Judicial Council. Obviously she was inconvenient and was sacked in an unclear procedure," said judge Neli Kutskova at the demonstration in front of the council's offices in Sofia.
Rightist groups and professional organisations of magistrates also condemned the decision and called it an attempt to intimidate reformist judges and stifle change in the inefficient and graft-prone judiciary.
The centre-right government of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, which came to office three years ago promising to end a climate of impunity in the European Union's poorest state, rushed to distance itself from the dismissal of Todorova.
"The decision of the Supreme Judicial Council, whose reputation I can call controversial, is a provocation aimed against the government," the prime minister said in a statement.
Borisov said other judges had been given lighter punishments or none for similar delays to cases and urged the council, an independent body which administers the legal system, to reconsider its decision.
Brussels has repeatedly urged its newest member to overhaul its justice system. It is to issue a report next week on Bulgaria's progress in fighting corruption and organised crime.
On Thursday, European leaders reprimanded neighbouring Romania, which also is under Brussels monitoring, for failing to protect the rule of law, sending a signal that the independence of judges should be respected.
Todorova said her dismissal was "humiliating and unfair" and she would appeal it. She called on judges not to be intimidated by the council.
"I may be a subject of repression but I do not feel a victim ... There is no need for the colleagues to be afraid," Todorova told a news conference.
Todorova has criticised the government for not going far enough in its reforms and called for changes to the way members of the Supreme Judicial Council are chosen.
A survey carried out by the independent Centre for the Study of Democracy in May showed more than 50 percent of Bulgarians did not trust the courts and 72 percent believed magistrates could be easily bribed.
More than 60 percent believe the judges are susceptible to political influence.
Recent showdown between NATO and Russia is believed to be a possible solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh question in Azerbaijan
No working group can tackle question between Turkey and Russia unless Turkey takes step first, Kremlin spokesman says
Mohamad Taher Siala, a foreign ministry employee for three decades, 'officially took up his post' at the ministry building
As it is announced the number of the Chechen refugees living in Germany it is increased.
'Following last week's closure of the Idomeni refugee camp, the number of refugees trying to cross Hungary's barrier has increased,' Hungarian PM's chief adviser says
Today, Sadiq Khan and I will set aside our differences to show how remaining in Europe guarantees we are better off: UK PM
Council of Europe representative says Greece failed to 'to create decent facilities that meet international standards'
Two Tunisian civilians are killed and one other injured by a landmine planted by extremist groups near the Algerian border
As part of a peace deal, Palestinian Authority wants NATO to substitute IDF forces in the West Bank
'The start of 2016 is still feeling the disastrous consequences of the attacks in 2015,' the French capital's tourism board says
Deadly blasts occurred in three different areas killing eleven, wounding dozens
Muslim pilgrims mark prayer helping to end a drought over 5 centuries ago
A neo-Nazi has been arrested after threatening to massacre refugees
Counter-terrorism service forces forces entered the city under air cover from the international coalition, the Iraqi air force and army aviation and supported by artillery and tanks
The IMF has refused to back Greece's rescue plan with some seeing the move as the IMF making an effort to protect its own reputation
Hissene Habré, 73, is a former rebel leader who took power by force in 1982 and was then supported by the US and France to remain at the helm as a bulwark to Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of Libya.