Bulgarian prosecutors on Tuesday pressed charges against four former police officials accused of involvement in wiretapping political opponents of the former government.
The prosecutor's office charged the most recent head of a police surveillance unit, Sergey Katsarov, and his two predecessors Tsvetan Ivanov and Kamen Kostov with abuse of power and facilitating unregulated wiretapping between 2009 and 2013. A fourth official, Radko Dimitrov, was charged with attempts to cover up the case by allegedly destroying the illegal recordings.
The accused — who worked for the national police service under the Interior Ministry— deny the charges. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison.
The prosecution opened a probe last month and found evidence of possible unregulated wiretapping of politicians, businessmen and magistrates, some of whom opposed the former government of ex-Prime Minister Boiko Borisov.
Bulgarian law allows technical means of surveillance to be used only in investigations into a crime that carries a prison sentence of more than five years.
Later on Tuesday, prosecutors were to question former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov about the activities of his employees. Tsvetanov, who now heads the electoral campaign of Borisov's ex-ruling party, Citizens for Bulgaria's European Development, has described the allegations as "ridiculous."
Borisov's government quit in February amid nationwide protests. The latest allegations could embarrass it as it tries to regain power after early general elections set for May 12. A caretaker government is presently in charge in Bulgaria. Public opinion polls, conducted ahead of the wiretapping scandal, showed Borisov's center-right party with a 5 percent lead ahead of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.