874.00/2–648: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Legation in Bulgaria

87. In response to correspondent’s request for comment on Gitchev case Department spokesman today stated:

“Department has received reports from American Legation Sofia concerning indictment, calling for death penalty or life imprisonment, which has been brought against Dimiter Gitchev, prominent Agrarian opposition leader. Mr. Gitchev has a long and impressive record as defender of democratic principles in Bulgaria.

Viewed against background of present Bulgarian regime’s past and current record and recent statements by Bulgarian officials, charges against Mr. Gitchev and preparation for his trial, resemble so closely case of Nikola Petkov as to suggest strongly Bulgarian Government’s intention again to disregard its treaty obligations with respect to securing to its citizens the most basic human rights.”1

  1. Telegram 88, February 9, to Sofia, provided the following explanation of this Departmental statement:

    “Dept believes statement re Gitchev has served notice of US Govt’s interest in case and that, in absence of compelling reasons therefor, additional official statements are undesirable while case is sub judice. Assume Leg observer (presumably in capacity of Leg press officer as in Petkov trial) present trial. American press representation also of course desirable. Dept will endeavor give trial fullest possible VOUSA coverage.” (874.00/2–948)

    On April 16 Gitchev was sentenced to life imprisonment for acts against the Bulgarian Government. In telegram 504, April 16, from Sofia, not printed, Minister Heath again urged a Departmental statement of condemnation regarding the Gitchev trial and sentence (874.00/4–1648). Telegram 281, May 6, to Sofia, not printed, replied that in the absence of American press reports, comments on the Gitchev verdict, or inquiries from correspondents, the Department felt that a statement “would appear out of focus here”. (874.00/5–448)