124.743/3–548: Telegram

The Minister in Bulgaria (Heath) to the Secretary of State


294. Legation’s telegram 293, March 5.1 I am decidedly of opinion it would be useful for Dept give publicity to arbitrary arrests Legation employees and violation diplomatic premises (Deptel 137, March 1). Our more intelligent Bulgarian employees feel that far from further imperiling their personal situation failure our government take some public stand on these incidents could serve encourage Bulgarian authorities to take further terroristic and punitive action against them. Agree this view.

It seems to us here however, that Department publicity this subject should be in form subordinate broader statement on widespread arrests and internments persons not in sympathy Communist regime. In view however differing moral magnitude two related developments it suggested best publicity formula might be to initiate Department’s comment in answer questions raised Department’s press conference by some correspondent on new wave arrests and internments Bulgaria to be followed and extended at subsequent press conference by comment on arrests Legation employees and violation diplomatic premises. This would seem offer best opportunity maximum most effective publicity while at same time keeping Legation’s less important problems separate from and in proper perspective with more historic wave police terror sweeping through this country.

As we see it from here reply first question on general wave arrests should be along following lines: “Department’s gravely concerned over reports new wave arrests and internments Bulgarians whose only offense apparently that not being in sympathy with present regime or of having contact with representatives and private citizens western countries. Department finds it difficult believe that those arrested were engaged subversive activity against regime. Qualified observers doubt in view reign of fear and unlimited authority Bulgarian militia that there any organized subversive activity against Bulgarian state at present time. Arrests because political opinion are of course violation human and political rights guaranteed in peace treaty with Bulgaria and Department instructing American Legation Sofia report on situation.”

Upon further subsequent inquiry same subject Legation suggests Department might reply along following lines: “Possibly as part this wholesale roundup Bulgaria[n] militia has arrested three Bulgarian [Page 305] employees of American Legation and is holding them incommunicado and without charge. In fourth instance premises occupied by officer of Legation entered by armed militia who while on premises arrested a Bulgarian on household staff of the officer. Since February 6, American Minister Sofia has made repeated written and verbal representations and although Foreign Office has given him assurances against arbitrary arrests, molestation or interference with Legation’s Bulgarian employees and to effect charges against arrestees would be made available to Legation Foreign Office assurances have not yet been fulfilled. Inviolability diplomatic premises one oldest fundamental immunities provided by international law and due protection personnel whether or not they be nationality employing country is universally accepted by all civilized states. American Minister continuing his representations and discussions with Bulgarian Foreign Office.”

Above suggestions have been drafted with thought in mind they are probably as strong as Department prepared go in present situation. However, I would be very much pleased if Department saw fit make statement very much stronger.2

Repeated Bucharest 39, Budapest 31, London 43, Moscow 36[?]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Telegram 161, March 11, to Sofia, replied to this message as follows:

    “As Dept not convinced of usefulness at this juncture of official statement re arrests and perceives possibility such statement would subject three employees still held to retaliatory measures, Dept is reserving decision re statement. US press has thus far mentioned neither arrests of employees nor more general campaign against elements unsympathetic towards regime.” (124.743/3–1048)