874.00/8–547: Telegram

The Acting Representative in Bulgaria (Horner) to the Secretary of State

urgent   niact

628. Reference Mistel 626, August 4.1 When Lieutenant Colonel Yatsevitch2 and I arrived at court approximately half hour before Petkov trial was due to commence (8 a. m. today), we were refused entry as was acting British Pol representative. We were told that non-Bulgarians not permitted at trial with exception press correspondents for whom special facilities made available.

I called on Foreign Minister Georgiev this morning regarding matter. I told him I had interpreted two consecutive refusals on part Foreign Office to arrange seats for Yatsevitch and myself to be merely instances of discourtesy. However, our definite exclusion from trial could only be regarded as bad faith and in contravention of assurances given me by Prime Minister on June 7,3 that Petkov would be tried in open court and that his trial would be fair one.

I said that in considering its attitude towards this trial, US Government would have to weigh fair words of Prime Minister against actions actually taken by Bulgarian Government. I referred to brochure in English distributed by Bulgarian Ministry of Information in June which amounted to condemning Petkov in advance of his day in court. I also mentioned recent negotiations between Fatherland Front and Opposition Agrarians in course of which FF (which is the government) gave as one of its conditions for permitting Agrarians to exist that latter publicly condemn their own leader as traitor in advance of his trial. Tone of Bulgarian press in recent days also seemed to leave no doubt that Government planned to find Petkov guilty. This press campaign was all more unfair since press is completely govt-controlled, two opposition newspapers having been suppressed since April 29. Finally, I spoke of resolutions voted by factory and government workers demanding death penalty for Petkov and told Foreign Minister it was perfectly obvious to anyone with ears that these resolutions were completely phony and resulted from governmental pressure.

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Georgiev was more ill at ease than I have ever seen him. He offered only feeblest of excuses for Government’s action and promised to study démarche immediately.

Some sort of public statement by Department respecting this new development seems indicated and if it is made, I hope it will be given fullest publicity both in press and on Voice of America.4

  1. Not printed. In it, Acting Representative Horner reported that he and British Acting Political Representative Tollinton had requested to be assigned seats at the forthcoming trial of Nikola Petkov. Horner also reported that he was doing everything possible to arrange for clearances of American correspondents to enter Bulgaria in order to cover the trial (874.00/8–547).
  2. Lt. Col. Gratian Yatsevich, on the staff of the United States Representation, Allied Control Commission for Bulgaria; subsequently, Assistant Military Attaché in Bulgaria.
  3. See telegram 408, June 7, from Sofia, p. 159.
  4. Telegram 298, August 5, to Sofia, not printed, approved Acting Representative Horner’s representations to Foreign Minister Georgiev but commented as follows regarding further action:

    Dept feels release of June 11 set forth US attitude fully and could not usefully be supplemented this time. If foreign correspondents are in fact given facilities attend trial substance Dimitrov assurance that trial open would appear fulfilled. Also while your reports indicate maximum penalty may already have been decided, there is at least possibility that such is not the case and that further US representations or statements during trial might increase severity of sentence.” (874.00/8–547)