Jock Palfreeman is serving a 20-year sentence for murder in Sofia Central Prison, Bulgaria. His conviction followed a trumped-up trial in a dysfunctional state where the local gangsters known as mutri hold sway, and hatred of Roma is a national pastime for many.
Palfreeman was alleged to have killed Andrei Monov in Sofia in December 2007 while trying to defend two Roma men. Monov was the son of a Bulgarian MP who wants Jock to spend the rest of his life in jail.
What took place that night, and the subsequent investigation and trial, is told in forensic detail in Belinda Hawkins’ book, Every Parent’s Nightmare.
Palfreeman has a heart as big as Phar Lap. In his short life, he has a long history of fighting against injustice wherever he finds it. As a 15-year-old, he went to the assistance of a protester who was being beaten by police at a Sydney May Day rally. On a previous visit to Bulgaria, he had intervened to stop an attack on a young Roma man.
On the night of December 27, 2007 he tried to stop a dozen young Bulgarians from attacking two Roma men. In the scuffle that followed, Monov died from a knife wound.
The “evidence” of Palfreeman’s alleged guilt came from the group of involved in the attack.
The men held neo-fascist sympathies, yet they all denied attacking the Roma men that Palfreeman was trying to protect. But in 2010, one of the group, Emil Aleksiev, was arrested over the vicious bashing of students on their way to a protest rally outside a detention centre for illegal migrants in Sofia.
Palfreeman is not the first foreign visitor to Bulgaria to be wrongly jailed. In 2005, an 18-year-old Liverpool football fan on holiday in Bulgaria after watching his team in the Champions League in Turkey was convicted of attempted murder. This was despite another fan confessing to the crime.
Sentenced to 15 years, he was extradited to a prison near Liverpool after the British government intervened on his behalf. After his local MP, Fair Trials International, and Liverpool Football Club and fans continued to argue that his conviction should be quashed, he was given a royal pardon in 2009.
This is what needs to be done for Palfreeman, who has already been beaten by prison officers and has now set up the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Association. He continues to fight for others, the very least we can do is fight for him.