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Bulgaria (British Note)

Volume 463: debated on Monday 21 March 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the full text of the note sent to the Bulgarian Government on 12th March referring to the alleged confessions by the accused during the trial of the 15 Protestant pastors in Sofia recently; and what reply he has received.

Following is the text of the note

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have followed with close attention the trial of the 15 Protestant Pastors in the Sofia Regional Court from 25th February to 8th March, and have learned with deep concern the details of the very severe sentences imposed on the accused men.

2. During the trial certain of the defendants confessed to having taken part in espionage at the instance of past and present members of His Majesty's Legation. His Majesty's Government have examined these confessions in detail and, in so far as they relate to the alleged activities of His Majesty's Legation, have found them to be completely false. Thus it is alleged in the "confession" of Pastor Ziapkov that in October, 1944, Mr. Stanley Burt-Andrews and his brother (who was Head of the Air Mission on the Allied Control Commission and not connected in any way with the B.B.C.) went to visit the Pastor. It is also alleged that further contacts were made with Mr. Burt-Andrews in November and December, 1944, and in February, April and October, 1945.

3. In point of fact Mr. Stanley Burt-Andrews did not reach Sofia until 30th March, 1946, after which date his contacts with Pastor Ziapkov were solely connected with his duties as British Vice-Consul and specifically as the officer concerned on the civil side with the celebration of marriages. This clear example of misrepresentation renders suspect the whole of the testimony in these so-called "confessions"; and His Majesty's Government therefore draw their own conclusions as to how and why such statements came to be made and to be used as evidence.

4. Throughout the trial the Bulgarian Government has shown itself clearly more interested in the dissemination of propaganda than in the administration of justice. In order to destroy the liberty of these churchmen, it has sought to represent constitutional opposition to the Government as criminal, the provision of information implicit in the Armistice Agreement as treasonable, and normal social contacts between the Pastors and members of His Majesty's Legation as espionage. It has further endeavoured to persuade the world that true religious freedom is compatible with the exercise of power by a Communist Government.

5. Neither His Majesty's Government not the British people are deceived by these attempts. The trial which has just concluded has served to convince His Majesty's Government that religious freedom in Eastern Europe is under a deliberate general attack and further that the Bulgarian Government has no intention of giving effect to its solemn obligations under the terms of the Treaty of Peace to guarantee the fundamental freedoms of its people.

British Legation, Sofia.

11th March, 1949.