Trouble in Sofia Central Prison

Inside Sofia Central Prison (Dobrin Kashavelov)
Inside Sofia Central Prison (Dobrin Kashavelov)

Jock Palfreeman claims that on 17 October 2013 guards attacked his ten cell mates and him in the foreigners’ section of Sofia Central Prison.  Local human rights group, The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee has taken statements from the prisoners and is investigating the prisoners’ claims.

The incident has increased concerns of Palfreeman’s family that his life is in danger.

You can read Palfreeman’s account of what happened on the website of the Prisoners’ Association which he both heads and was instrumental in establishing.

Some Bulgarian media outlets are publishing a very different account, one which allegedly comes from someone working at the prison. The reports say that it was the prisoners who attacked the guards and point the finger at Palfreeman in particular.

According to the reports, the head of prison has downplayed all talk of an incident.

Currently the Australian government is appealing the Bulgarian Prosecutor General’s decision to refuse its request that Palfreeman be transferred to an Australian prison. The Prosecutor General cited a record of poor behaviour and insufficient sentence served as reasons for his decision.

Bulgaria and Australia are both signatories to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons which does not stipulate how long a prisoner needs to have served in the sentencing country. Nor does it specify that the prisoner’s behaviour is a consideration in the decision to transfer.

Transfer is regarded as more humane and more likely to result in rehabilitation. However the decision to grant it is discretionary.

Palfreeman was arrested on 28 December 2007 after a melee in Sofia in which 20 year old Andrei Monov died after sustaining a single stab wound to his side and 19 Antoan Zahariev was injured. Palfreeman claimed he had run to defend a Roma who was being attacked by Monov and his companions. He claims that the attack then turned on him.

Bulgarian media reporting of the Palfreeman case in the lead up to the trial painted a picture of the Australian as a crazed killer.

The Bulgarian court appointed psychiatric panel reported to police and the court that Palfreeman was not aggressive by nature.

Monov’s father, psychologist and now Member of Parliament with the ruling Socialist Party, has argued publicly that Palfreeman is a sociopath who will kill again if released. In his election campaign, Hristo Monov was reported as saying he would do all he could to ensure Palfreeman was not transferred to Australia.

Meanwhile the protests in Bulgaria against government and judicial corruption continue.



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