Judges on Bulgaria’s SJC concerned by tensions over Palfreeman case
The judicial college of Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) said on September 24 that it was concerned by the escalating public tensions over the decision by the Court of Appeal in Sofia to grant a conditional early release from prison of Australian murder convict Jock Palfreeman.
The statement was issued after a scheduled regular meeting of the SJC’s judicial college, responding to comments on the appeal court decision by political parties, academics, individuals and the media, as well as a call by the nationalist VMRO party for an investigation into the presiding judges.
The appeal court ruled to parole Palfreeman, who had served 11 years of a 20-year sentence for the stabbing murder of Andrei Monov. Palfreeman has continuously protested his innocence. The appeal court’s decision has been widely condemned in Bulgaria.
“We are sympathetic to the pain and suffering of Andrei Monov’s relatives, sharing their sense of a broken balance between law and justice,” the SJC judicial college said.
However, it said, the SJC was an “administrative body that does not interfere with the judicial activity and cannot discuss, control or revise judicial acts”.
The SJC quoted Bulgaria’s constitution, which places the administration of justice in the hands of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Supreme Administrative Court, courts of appeal, district, military and regional courts, “and in case of contradictory or incorrect practice in the interpretation and application of the law, an interpretative decision is adopted by the Supreme Court of Cassation, which carries out supreme oversight of the accurate and uniform application of the law by all courts.
The complaint by the VMRO youth wing, involving allegations of violations of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary as well as of a judicial ruling taken under pressure, had been referred to the SJC Inspectorate for investigation, the SJC said.