Row Over Spying, Police, Hungary & Slovenian Politics Heats Up

By , 20 Feb 2020, 09:36 AM Politics
Row Over Spying, Police, Hungary & Slovenian Politics Heats Up pixabay - Tumisu CC-by-0

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STA, 19 February 2020 - Tensions are running high as the police and the Democrats (SDS) clashed over the jurisdiction of the parliamentary Commission for Intelligence and Security Services Oversight (KNOVS), which wanted to investigate on Tuesday allegations that police had been spying on coalition party heads on behalf of outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

Three KNOVS members made an unannounced visit to the police headquarters yesterday, investigating the suspicion that Šarec and his state secretary Damir Črnčec abused the police to gain information to extort party leaders in coalition-building talks with the SDS.

Šarec and Črnčec - the latter ran both national intelligence agencies under Janša's rule - both denied the allegations, with Šarec saying that the media "close to the SDS...are obviously describing their own methods".

He believes the SDS, whose MP Žan Mahnič led Tuesday's visit by KNOVS, is abusing the commission for political purposes.

"Independent institutions are investigating Hungarian funds which are flowing we all know where and attention has to be diverted," he said in reference to alleged by-bass funding of the SDS or the media associated with the party through circles close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Črnčec denied the allegation through his lawyer, and posted a lengthy post on Facebook this morning, criticising Janša. He also wondered why and for how much Janša had "sold Slovenia's national interests to Hungary".

He said in a post that Janša's and him parted ways parted when he had realised that "the SDS apparatus operates on the principles of a mafia business, where all paths lead to its leader and his inner circle".

Meanwhile, the police force also issued a determined response, underlining it is not "a dislocated unit of any politician or of any political organisation."

Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar said in a statement that the three members of KNOVS had tried to gain access to information that were beyond the scope of their legal powers.

The police said they wanted the names of police officers who potentially accessed records of certain MPs and information about ongoing investigations, including in cases without covert methods, the latter being in the domain of KNOVS.

Bobnar said the police would not give in to pressure from anybody and called for an election campaign built on arguments and not made-up stories at the expense of the police force and threats to its leadership. She vowed that the police would do everything in its power to prevent the spread of fake news within the force.

She also noted KNOVS deputy chair Žan Mahnič warned her she might want to think about her future because she would face criminal charges if the commission finds out that she was covering up political abuse of the police force. The statement interpreted as a threat was witnessed by Bobnar's deputy, as well as the boss of the criminal police departments.

Mahnič later tried to downplay this, announcing that a different parliamentary commission that is already looking into alleged politically-motivated prosecution would look into the spying allegations and demand the material that was denied to KNOVS.

The commission demands that the police provide within 10 days a list of all interventions into police records for any of the 90 MPs, all the cabinet ministers and the outgoing prime minister.

The General Police Administration said that the police had started checking the allegations and that the state prosecution would be kept informed.

Most parliamentary parties have expressed concern over the allegations. They believe that the matter should be investigated and all suspicions clarified.

According to reports by news portal Požareport, the alleged mission by Črnčec and Šarec targeted friends of Zdravko Počivalšek, the outgoing minister of economy and the head of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and MPs of the SMC, as well as MPs of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB).

Meanwhile, the Left's MP Miha Kordiš labelled the developments as usual political scandaling, and took aim at the SDS.

The party and Janša have abused state institutions many times, he said, adding that Črnčec also belonged to that school of thought. It would not be surprising if the prime minister "has developed this bad habit too", he said.

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