We hear it all too often “I’m innocent” or “”I didn’t do it” and it is a reoccurring theme with a group within our society here in Bulgaria. This part of our society will never admit that they are guilty or that they carry any responsibility whatsoever for their actions. This part of society is of course known as the “elite” of Bulgaria.

They revolve around their own circles up the in the clouds and of course it is the workers and forgotten who are made to pay for their luxury and privilege.

Elena Poptodorova (Елена Поптодорова) claims that she simply made a mistake and that the taking of the 500 odd Euro cream was due to a lapse of judgement. However despite her claims of innocence she was found guilty. Now seeing as she is a Bulgarian citizen we or more correctly ‘she’ should ask herself ‘what would have happened to her if she had taken the cream worth around 500€ from somewhere in Bulgaria?’

The product she stole was worth about (500€), 1000 leva, that’s over 2 months’ wages in Bulgaria. There are people in prison for the theft of much less then 1000 leva. There are people convicted to serve a year in prison for the theft of 20 leva and the theft of a mobile phone could easily see a person be sent to prison from between 6 months to a year. The article for theft is 194 paragraph 1 from the Punishment Codex which says “who deprives foreign movable object from the control of another without his permission and found to have done it illegally is punished for theft with deprivation of freedom up to 8 years” (Чл. 194 от Наказателна Кодекс (1) Който отнеме чужда движима вещ от владението на другиго без негово съгласие с намерение противозаконно да я присвои, се наказва за кражба с лишаване от свобода до осем години.)

So what would prison look like for Mrs Poptodorova?
Of course the conditions in Bulgarian prisons are famous and well documented. There have been cases of mass rapes, mass beatings from both other prisoners and guards. Guards are well known to torture prisoners both for fun, revenge and also to extract information from them. All prisons in Bulgaria are infested with cockroaches, rats and bedbugs, some of them you can find in your food. Others are like annoying friends who come to visit you when you’re asleep and they wake you up for example bedbugs or cockroaches that run over your face.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves of course; first of all she would be arrested by the Police in front of her family, friends and neighbours. The Police would handcuff her and everyone would be whispering and pointing at her as the police push her into their car or van. The arresting Police would be asked by a brave neighbour “what is she being arrested for?” and the Police would tell everyone “she’s a thief” and all the neighbours and people who know her would start saying “I thought she was a good person I didn’t know she was a thief”

At the police station she would be handcuffed to a railing high up so that she would have to stand with one arm up in the air and so that she couldn’t sit down, this practice is known in Bulgarian police stations as “tramway” as it looks like you’re a passenger on a bus or tram standing and holding the railings about your head. From time to time a policeman would come to her and punch her, the Police love hitting detained in the Police Stations with books and folders on the head. As is common with female suspects the Police would grab her by the hair pulling it and repeatedly tell her “why did you steal bitch? Why did you steal it whore?” If she was lucky Elena would be moved to a cell 1 metre by 50 cm which had inside another 4 or 5 detained people, most likely junkies and alcoholics that have vomited, pissed and shitted all over the cell. If she didn’t mind sitting in another person’s vomit or piss she would be able to sit during this time. She’d ask for her lawyer or to have access to a phone but the police wouldn’t let her. She’d be locked up there until the next day when the Investigator would could. After the Investigator took her statement she’d be moved to one of the local remand prisons known as “arrest”.

The first 24 hours has passed which is how long the police have a right to hold Elena Poptodorova for.

now we enter the 72 hour phase that the Prosecutors’ Office has to hold someone without an order from a judge. Her remand prison (арест) would be really how you imagine a dungeon. There are more homely remand prisons in movies demonizing the Soviet prison system then are found in Bulgaria now in the 21st century. The walls would be black or brown stained from yeas of cigarette smoking. Her cell would be around 3 metres by 1.5 metres and there would be 3 or 5 people in such a cell as is common in places such as Remand Prison Ruse (Арест Русе), interestingly there are only 2 beds in the cell. Elena would have to rely on her fighting skills. Surely she learnt something from all those years of attacking Hezbollah. If her Yanki puppeteers had taught her well enough she would be able to fight off the other prisoners in her cell to get a bed. If she failed to get a bed like she failed to convince us that Hezbollah was behind the bomb in Burgas then she’d have to sleep on the floor with the other 2 or 3 prisoners.

Having to sleep with another 2 or 3 other prisoners on the floor together wouldn’t be so bad for Elena because it if was cold like it was when she stole the cream she would be grateful for the warmth of her cellmates as there’s little to no heating in the Remand Prisons. The window is permanently locked so there is no airflow and the other 5 prisoners in her cell would all be smoking. She would be all day in this cell with 5 people smoking about a packet each a day, so she’d be breathing in the smoke of about 5 packets a day. Showers are once a week for 10 minutes and that is also the allotted time for washing of cloths which Elena Poptodorova would do in a plastic bucket if she had someone to come and bring her one at a visit.

If no one came to give Elena a bucket she would have to wash her cloths on the floor of the shower room. There is no toilet in her cell so Mrs Poptodorova would have to defecate and urinate in a bucket in front of the other prisoners in that small cell. The urine and faeces would stay in the bucket until the guard felt like opening the cell door to allow her to throw it out and if it was during the night Elena would have to sleep next to the bucket of piss and shit until at least 6:30am rollcall. She would only have books for entertainment for the whole 24hours of a day, there are no power points, no TV

Within the next 72 hours Elena Poptodorova would be taken to court. In the guard van on the way to court she’d be handcuffed to all the other prisoners with her left hand handcuffed to 1 stranger and her right hand handcuffed to another. In the court house she would be taken with handcuffs. If the guards felt like it they would put her in leg chains as well and so the guards would take her shuffling to court in front of all of Bulgaria’s finest media where by the agents of Peevski would photograph her. She’d be blinded from the lights of the cameras and flashes and then voices from the crowd of court house “journalists” would shout at her “are you sorry for your crime? Will you apologize to the victims? Why are you a thief Elena?” and she’d be shuttled into court. The judge would apply Remand Detention pending trial and after the guard fought of Peevki’s finest on the way out of the court room she’d be sent back to her box in Remand.

She would then have to wait in these conditions until the case went to court, the Police Investigator has 2 months to conclude their investigation and then the Prosecutor has 2 months to complete their investigation, both investigation periods can be extended but there is rarely even a need for either investigation periods as the Prosecutor is in charge of the Police Investigator and so almost always the Prosecutor has already instructed the Investigator what to write and what evidence to collect. This means that as the Police Investigator’s investigation is controlled and directed by the Prosecutor, the prosecutor then gets given a Police report that the Prosecutor uses to justify their own conclusions even though the report is from the Prosecutor to begin with as the prosecutor is in charge of the Police Investigation. After the 4 months of investigation she would have to wait for a trial date which could also take several months, maybe 2 or 3 if she is lucky.

During this time she would be allowed 2 visits a month behind glass and only for 40minutes a visit. She’d be allowed 4 visitors but there would be only 1 telephone which visitors can speak on. From the time she was arrested until her trial there would be stories coming out about her in the newspapers ‘Trud’ and ‘24Hours’ about how she ran thieving mafia gangs in Thailand and how she was the biggest thief in the Congo even though she had never been to these countries. The internet tabloids like ‘Blitz’ and ‘Frog News’ would write even more interesting articles about how Elena Poptodorova was the first to steal a piece of Mars and that she was the head of an international ring of endangered midget banana thieves. She’d be able to read all these stories in the newspapers just before her cellmates used the paper for rollies (махорки). Of course none of these “journalists” would even try to speak to her for her side of the story or to give her a ‘right of reply’.

When she got to court what would be in her favour is that she doesn’t have a criminal record. And so it is very possible she would be given a prison sentence of 6 months or maybe a year but as it was her first offence it would probably be suspended. Unless of course her victims from who she stole from were connected with a political party or worked for the state in a connected position like the Police or if they were connected rich businessmen, and in that case there is also a high chance the sentence would be effective. If Elena received a suspended sentence she would have to wait for the sentence to come into force, the Prosecution might not like that it was such a lenient sentence or they might want the sentence to be effective. Elena would have to wait for all the appeals and trials to finish. After the decision entered into force she’d be released and even if she received a 6 month or a year suspended prison sentence she would have only a few months left due to the time she spent in the Remand Prison.

By the time she left prison she would of course have been fired from whatever employment she had and no one would want to hire her again as she’s a thief. She would have lost thousands of leva to pay for the court and lawyer fees.

But of course as she is from the protected species of known as the Bulgarian elite none of this would have happened as she would have been let off straight away. On her interview on NOVA TV, she got a privileged place on morning TV, when we should have been leaning about the genocide in Syria or the embezzlement in the Bulgarian prison system we had to listen to another privileged elite complain about how she was treated at the hands of other elite in the yellow press.

Us prisoners and accused know exactly how Elena Poptodorova feel, but she should know that she is lucky that she wasn’t arrested for theft in Bulgaria. Accident or not she would not find mercy from a Bulgarian court if she was working class and not part of the political elite. She’s also lucky because she’s white, if she was Roma working class and she stole 1000 leva in Bulgaria she’d get an even higher prison sentence and possibly be sexually assaulted by the Police and guards. Yes Elena Poptodorova, lets talk about the Bulgarian context, lets talk about how lucky you were to be caught by the Polish and to have received only a fine.

More info: Women in Bulgarian Prisons (by Bulgarian Helsinki Committee)