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Trial Opens for Ex-Leader of Bulgaria

From Associated Press

Todor Zhivkov, who was Bulgaria’s Communist leader for 35 years, went on trial Monday on charges of misappropriating state funds and handing out cars and homes to friends and cohorts.

Zhivkov, 79, is the first leader of a former East Bloc country to stand public trial since a wave of revolutions threw out Communist rulers in 1989.

After the first day of the proceedings, he scorned the court and insisted that he is not guilty.

About 100 demonstrators gathered outside the courtroom, some shouting: “Punishment!”

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Zhivkov is scheduled to testify today. Nearly 250 prosecution witnesses are scheduled to testify.

Zhivkov’s long-standing chief of Cabinet, Milko Balev, also appeared in court on corruption charges.

One of Zhivkov’s lawyers, Reni Tsanova, said the prosecution seeks a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison.

Zhivkov is charged with misappropriating about $4 million, and allowing top Communist officials, his employees and friends to buy apartments, cars and weekend houses at what the state news agency BTA termed “giveaway prices.”

Zhivkov resigned under pressure from key Politburo members on Nov. 10, 1989. His departure ushered in a multiparty system.


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