Suspect held in Bulgaria journalist murder probe
A Romanian man has been detained in Bulgaria in connection with the rape and murder of broadcast journalist Viktoria Marinova.
Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry says its most senior investigators have been assigned to solve the case, including top organised crime detective, Ivaylo Spiridonov.
Teodor Atanassov, police chief in the northern town of Ruse, said officers were holding the man for 24 hours and checking the alibi of the “a Romanian of Ukrainian descent”.
The man was also reported to have a Moldova passport.
The 30-year-old’s body was found on October 6 in a park near the River Danube in Ruse, brutally beaten, raped and strangled.
Interior minister Mladen Marinov said on Monday there was no evidence to suggest the murder was linked to Marinova’s job.
Marinova was a manager at the private station TVN and hosted an investigative programme with the most recent show focussing on the GP Group, a building company alleged to have misused European Union funding.
It featured investigative journalists Dimitar Stoyanov from Bivol.bg and Attila Biro from the Romanian Rise Project, about an investigation into business chiefs and top politicians.
The pair were briefly held by police in September while looking into the case, drawing condemnation from the media rights groups.
Bulgaria is considered the worst EU country for media freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders, which said investigative journalists were often subjected to pressure, “from mere warnings to intimidation and physical assaults on themselves or their property”.
Bivol.bg called for police protection for Marinova’s surviving colleagues.
Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry has since announced that prosecutors opened an investigation into the GP Group and froze €14 million of assets, as hundreds attended candlelit vigils in Sofia and Ruse, the television reporter’s hometown.
Some mourners then protested against corruption at Sofia’s Palace of Justice and called for chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov to step down.
The anti-corruption organisation Boets pledged to continue protesting until the killer was found.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Bulgaria to ensure “accountability” after the “grisly murder and rape.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric pointed to “a very worrying increase of violence, sexual and otherwise, that’s particularly targeting women journalists”.
The European Commission tweeted that there should be a “swift and thorough” probing, adding that “there is no democracy without a free press”.
Ruse’s monument to liberty. Picture credit: Wikimedia