124.743/8–149: Telegram

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

top secret

642. Ivan Secoulov, former Secretary Regency Council of Bulgaria1 and then translator this Legation until May 12 when Bulgarian security police ordered him with threats to resign (Legtel 393 May 12 and [Page 340] despatch 107 May 192) died in Sofia prison Thursday July 28, one week after his arrest at Rila where he had obtained employment.

It is known that certificate of death, which is being kept secret by Bulgarians, states death was suicide. It is theoretically possible that he took his own life, although all means of self destruction are taken from Bulgarian arrestees. But accepting theoretical possibility of suicide, his death shortly after arrest and undoubted mistreatment nonetheless constitutes a police murder as brutal as judicial murder of Nikola Petkov3 with whom he cooperated while secretary of Regency Council.

His friends and I knew Secoulov as a determined man of cool courage not of suicidal tendency. Aside from technical services as translator, his calm judgment of events was of great value to this legation in its estimate of situation. He had accepted employment here in full knowledge of personal risk involved hoping that he might thus serve cause of free and decent Bulgaria. He is another martyr of the insane Communist tyranny in its war against human freedom and specifically against US as liberty’s most powerful defender. He is presumably second victim on Legation staff, the first being Joseph Dimitroff who was tried for treason on absolutely baseless charges. Dimitroff’s appeal from death sentence was rejected and according Legation’s information he has been executed (Legtel 471 June 94).

Information re Secoulov death absolutely authentic coming from his brother one of whom, undergoing several years imprisonment in Sofia prison, was called in to identify body and sign death certificate alleging suicide. A second brother was notified, in his place of exile in provinces, and allowed to attend internment in suicide corner Sofia cemetery. A third brother is in concentration camp.

For moment news death should be withheld.

It is my belief that this latest incident should at appropriate time be given fullest possible publicity, however, both to enlighten American public opinion, and in justice to this faithful employee. As to manner and form publicity should take, will submit recommendations later.

  1. A Regency Council ruled Bulgaria in the name of child-King Simeon from August 1943 until the seizure of power by the Communist-dominated Fatherland Front in September 1944.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. Nikola Petkov, leader of the Bulgarian Agrarian Union and principal political opponent of the Communist-dominated regime, was tried and convicted in August 1947 of anti-state activity. He was executed in September 1947. For documentation on the arrest, trial, and execution of Petkov, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv , index entry under Petkov, Nikola.”
  4. Not printed. Joseph Dimitrov (Dimitroff) was a former employee of the American Military Mission in Bulgaria which was disbanded in September 1947. In 1948 Dimitrov and Dragan Peev, another former employee of the Mission, were arrested, and on August 7, 1948, condemned to death following a secret trial to which the American Legation was not allowed to send an observer. It is-not clear whether this sentence was actually carried out.