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Bulgaria's interim health minister charged with misuse of power

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian prosecutors said on Monday they had charged the country's interim health minister with misuse of power for threatening the head of a state health agency because she would not hire his protege.

Ilko Semerdzhilev, who is also Bulgaria's interim deputy prime minister, threatened to sack the executive director of the country's drug agency for refusing the favored candidate, citing potential conflict of interest, the prosecutors in a statement.

They said two witnesses reported the threats against agency head Asena Stoimenova and quoted Semerdzhiev as telling her on March 24: "I can sack you, I can also do other things to you."

Semerdzhiev denied any wrongdoing.

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"Stoimenova's resignation has not been requested," Semerdzhiev said in a statement, adding that Stoimenova had organized "massive pressure" on him not to sack her though such a threat has never existed.

Bulgaria, one of the European Union's poorest and most corrupt members, has been persistently criticized by the European Commission for failing to sever links between graft-prone officials and businessmen and impose strict rule of law.

The interim government was appointed by President Rumen Radev in late January and will stay in office until a new government is formed following snap elections held on March 26.

Last year, prosecutors charged a former health minister and three former energy ministers over mismanagement. Their cases have yet to come to a court and all have denied wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Stephen Powell)

 
 
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