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Bulgaria: Police remove tent camps, protesters vow to stay

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian police on Friday removed dozens of tent camps that had blocked key city intersections across the country as part of anti-government protests. Police said they cleared away tents in the capital of Sofia during the early morning hours and briefly detained 12 people.

Police Commissioner Toni Todorov said authorities respect and guarantee the rights of citizens to protest peacefully but that the such activity can not be done in a way that violates the rights of other Bulgarians.

“We have ensured the right to free movement of all citizens who dissent with the protesters,” Todorov said. The protesters, however, vowed to erect even more road blockades. One of their leaders, Nikolay Hadjigenov, said the government’s order for police to dismantle the protest camps would backfire.

“They provoked anger that will sweep them away. The dictatorship is to come to an end. We won’t tolerate this anymore," he said. Demands for the resignations of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the country’s chief prosecutor, Ivan Geshev, have been at the core of month-long street protests in the European Union’s poorest member nation.

The mostly young protesters accuse those in power of links to the mafia, refusing to fight corruption and suppressing freedom of speech. Borissov, who has held office since 2009 and whose third term is scheduled to end in March, offered Wednesday to step down if that would keep his troubled coalition government in place.

Following talks with the leaders of two nationalist parties that are junior partners in the governing coalition, it became clear Friday that Borissov’s government intends to remain in office until his term ends.

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