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Bulgaria deals with Chernobyl legal fallout

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SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgaria's Supreme Court Thursday sentenced former communist Deputy Prime Minister Grigor Stoichkov to three years in prison for violating norms of radiation safety after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

Lubomir Shinderov, former deputy minister of public health and chief sanitary inspector, was sentenced to two years imprisonment on the same grounds.

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At the time of the Chernobyl accident Stoichkov headed the government committee responsible for minimizing the consequences of natural disasters and industrial accidents.

He was responsible for ensuring that adequate measures for the protection of the population were taken in Bulgaria following the Chernobyl accident.

According to United Nations data cited during the trial, Bulgaria was one of the countries in which the radiation from the Chernobyl accident was comparatively low but the average dose received by its population was one of the highest in Europe.

The two former communist officials were accused of imposing a blackout on information about the level of radiation which impeded preventive measures.

There was testimony in the trial that while the Bulgarian population was kept in the dark about the level of radiation and the possible effects if countermeasures were not taken, top communist officials were supplied with special uncontaminated food and were fully informed about what they should do to minimize consequenses to their health.

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Stoichkov and Shinderov have the right to appeal their sentences within 14 days.

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