Bulgaria court acquits opposition leader in graft case

SOFIA (Reuters) - A Bulgarian court acquitted the leader of an opposition ethnic Turkish party, Ahmed Dogan, on Monday in a high profile corruption trial.

The case in the Supreme Administrative Court was watched with keen interest in a country under pressure from the European Union to crack down on corruption.

The court opened a case against Dogan, whose Movement of Rights and Freedoms party was part of the previous Socialist-led coalition, in September after a parliamentary commission on corruption notified it of a possible conflict of interest.

Dogan was accused of receiving 1.96 million levs in consulting fees on hydro power projects in 2008 and 2009 while his party was in power, but failing to make public his link with the Bulgarian company that contracted him.

The parliamentary commission argued that Dogan who was contracted to give technical advice lacked the expertise to do the job and suggested this was a case of political corruption.

The court said there was no evidence that Dogan had violated the public interest by receiving the fees. It also ruled that he had not been obliged to make the link public as the conflict of interest law was enforced after the contracts were signed.

The parliamentary commission will appeal the court ruling in the 14-day timeline, its chairman told Focus news agency.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova