Support grows for Jock Palfreeman inside Bulgaria

Jock Palfreeman being taken from prison to immigration detention on September 19.

On October 7, in an unprecedented departure from the rule of law, three judges will review the parole decision handed down to Australian citizen Jock Palfreeman on September 19 in Bulgaria.

Palfreeman has served 11 of a 20 year sentence and, under Bulgarian law, prisoners who serve half their sentence can be paroled. Currently, Palfreeman is being held illegally in an immigration prison.

The Supreme Court of Cassation hearing will be headed up by judge Zhanina Nacheva, a member of highest court panel which, in 2011, upheld the 20-year prison sentence imposed on Palfreeman.

But a petition to overturn the parole decision was bought to the Bulgarian Supreme Court of Cassation by the prosecutor-general. There is no legal precedent for such a review. Indeed, some 298 Bulgarian judges have warned against it, releasing a letter on September 25 which supported the parole judgment.

Palfreeman, who has been illegally detained in an immigration prison on the outskirts of Sophia told Green Left Weekly that, apart from the judges' statement, he has received a lot of support from across Bulgaria.

“It's overwhelming the amount of support I've received. They have not only supported my parole, not only question if my original sentence was fair, but are also now asking why the other 12 people in the neo-Nazi group have not been arrested and punished.”

Palfreeman's lawyer recently-released footage of their December 28, 2007 attack on a Roma boy, whom Palfreeman tried to defend. The footage, which had not been widely seen before clearly shows Palfreeman defensively trying to stop an attack on the boy and on himself.

Palfreeman also has an administrative ban preventing him from leaving the country, something the government could easily remove. “It should be done automatically after the sentence is served”, Palfreeman said. “But they are refusing to do it for me to hold me immigration prison.”

Asked whether he thought there was enough pressure for justice to prevail, Palfreeman said the Head Prosecutor's moves against him have “majorly backfired” as they were seeking to ”take some wind out of the anti-corruption protest movement.

“I think they thought that it would be easy brownie points for the upcoming election of the new Head Prosecutor. But there have been large protests against the government for its nomination for the next Head Prosecutor.

“Unfortunately for the Head Prosecutor and the ruling party [GERB — Bulgarian Socialist Party government] their move has just highlighted the problem of corruption. It has angered and activated Bulgarians who previously were not part of this movement.

“A protest is being organised against the Head Prosecutor on October 8 and I have a feeling this will be the biggest anti-corruption protest for many years as there are many people who are really angry with how the prosecutor and government have handled my case.

“The fact that this corruption has reached European institutions has also been noted.”

Asked what he wanted to do when he was released, Palfreeman responded: “I can not answer that question because I don't even know if I will be released.

“Right now I am being imprisoned illegally. And no one knows what will happen.

“The government wants me back in prison,” Palfreeman said.

It has been reported that there will be neo-Nazi protests outside the court hearing.

Palfreeman has asked supporters to go to Bulgarian embassies on October 7 to demand his release from illegal imprisonment.

Palfreeman's case has become intertwined with political fights between those supporting the rule of law and those who don't. There is push from within the ruling GERB party to amend Bulgaria's Penal Code to allow for parole decisions to be revoked. These amendments are reportedly expected to be adopted and go into force on October 10.

[A Bring Jock Home gathering is being organised by his friends in Sydney on October 10.]

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