UPDATE: A rally for Jock Palfreeman will take place in London from 11am on March 15, outside the Bulgarian embassy. For more details visit the Facebook event page Jock Palfreeman Solidarity Demo
In December 2009, then 23-year-old Australian Jock Palfreeman was sentenced to 20 years for murder in Sofia, Bulgaria. Two years earlier he had been involved in a fight against a gang of about 15 men, one of who died of a stab wound.
Palfreeman claimed that he acted in self-defence, as he was attacked by a gang of drunken youths when he came to the aid of two Roma (often known as “gypsy”) men the gang was assaulting. Statements made by police, gang members and independent witnesses largely supported Palfreeman's account of events.
The trial was marked by several serious anomalies, chief among them being that police and gang members changed their stories and claimed no Roma men were assaulted and that Palfreeman had attacked the gang without provocation. The defence was not allowed to use the original statements in court or question them on why their stories had changed.
In a subsequent appeal, the defence was allowed to question police and gang members about their changing versions of events. Most reverted to their original statements that supported Palfreeman’s version of event. The witnesses claimed confusion and memory loss for the changes in their stories. Nonetheless, the appeal court still upheld the original sentence.
Solidarity actions were organised for Palreeman around the world during his trial. A major Bulgarian human rights group, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, has also supported him.
Below, Green Left Weekly publishes a new open letter from Palfreeman.
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As of around August 2011 I have been convicted without right of appeal in the highest court of Bulgaria. I was left with a 20-year sentence in a maximum security prison.
However, what did change in the court's decision was that unlike the first court's verdict, the court of appeal ruled that there were Roma present and there was a "physical fight between the Roma and the group of boys".
Seeing as the Roma were 2 and the "group of boys" were 15 the use of the word "fight" is being stretched. The neo-Nazis from South Division Levski Ultras have denied that there was a "fight" with any Roma and even deny that Roma were there at all.
Yet the appeal court, although contradicting the neo-Nazis on this point, went on to claim that the statements from the neo-Nazis were truthful. Strangely the crux of the prosecutor's arguments was that there was no fight between the neo-Nazis and Roma and there weren't even Roma there, hence the accusation against me that I attacked them without cause.
This was also the excuse given by the investigator and prosecutor for not bringing the Roma to court as witnesses. Now, however, the court has ruled that Roma were there and that yes there was a physical fight between the Roma and neo-Nazis, but the court stops short at discrediting the neo-Nazis as witnesses and made no attempt to find these "new" witnesses.
Until today the only evidence used to prosecute me were the statements from the neo-Nazis themselves. There is no other collaborating evidence or witnesses to the indictment or court findings that I "for no reason attacked 15 men with the intent to kill them".
I have not changed my explanation of events from the beginning, and they remain the same after four years of being kidnapped by the Bulgarian state. I witnessed the 15 neo-Nazis all attack two Roma due to the colour of their skin. I intervened to defend the two Roma. The 15 neo-Nazis then attacked me and I defended myself.
For these reasons and many more we are trying to revitalise the solidarity movement with my case and all the connotations that my case involves - that is, racism, violent neo-Nazi gangs and their mates who defend them, the corrupt police, corrupt courts and the corrupt prison system.
The neo-Nazis wouldn't be able to attack people on the streets if it wasn't for the protection afforded them by the police and courts. It's telling when hundreds of the state's agents are needed to stop me, a lone individual. However against their hundreds I have morality, I am right and they are in the wrong and this is why it takes so many of them.
I am putting out a call to action to all those opposed to racism both on the street and in its institutionalised form of fascism: This March 2012-organise yourselves to go to the Bulgarian embassies or consuls in your cities. Let the Bulgarian state know that the matter is not yet settled and that you don't recognise the court's decision to incarcerate me and protect the racists.
I am also trying to transfer to Australia to be closer to my family and to escape the persecution against me by the prison administration at the behest of those connected with my case. Yet the Head Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, and his lapdog prosecutor, Krassimira Velcheva, have already tried to coerce me into retracting my transfer request.
I refused to retract my request and as such the Prosecutor's Office of Bulgaria is refusing to answer my requests, based on Bulgarian laws, to transfer to Australia.
March 2012 solidarity demands are:
• Jock's case be re-opened due to missing evidence primarily the two Roma witnesses/victims.
• The neo-Nazis are punished for their past race hate crimes and prevented from committing more.
• Jock is allowed to transfer to Australia and all foreigners who wish to transfer to their countries.
Letters of demand can be sent to the following relevant addresses:
Head prosecutor of Bulgaria, Boris Velchev, Ns 2 Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia 1061, Bulgaria.
Directorate of International Legal Assistance and European Integration, Krassimira Velcheva, 2 Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia 1061, Bulgaria.
Minister of Justice, Diana Kovacheva, Ns 1 Slavanska Street, Sofia 1040, Bulgaria.
Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boiko Borrisov, Ns 2 Dondukov street, Sofia 1123, Bulgaria • President of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneviev, Ns 2 Slavanska Street, Sofia 1040, Bulgaria • Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N2 29 "6th September" street, Sofia 1000, Bulgaria.