Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry: Palfreeman to remain in custody pending outcome of new court action

Jock Palfreeman will remain in the Busmantsi temporary detention facility pending a ruling by the Supreme Court of Cassation on an application to re-open the case and suspend his parole, Deputy Interior Minister Stefan Balabanov said on September 25.

Palfreeman, an Australian sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of student Andrei Monov, was released from Sofia Central Prison last week, after serving 11 years of his sentence, but was transferred to Busmantsi because his Australian passport had expired.

Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, acting on a petition from the Monov family, has asked the Supreme Court of Cassation to review the case and suspend Palfreeman’s parole, which was ruled by the Court of Appeals in Sofia in a decision that has caused national controversy in Bulgaria.

Although the Prosecutor’s Office earlier said that should Palfreeman be issued with a new Australian passport he would be free to leave the country, his departure has not transpired.

On September 25, Palfreeman’s lawyer, Kalin Angelov, said that Australian authorities had issued a passport to Palfreeman. It is understood that this passport was issued on September 23.

“I do not know a reason why he is still in Bulgaria. Moreover (Bulgaria) itself has issued an order for his expulsion,” Angelov said.

Bulgaria’s Justice Minister, Danail Kirilov, told journalists on Wednesday that he “had no information” that a passport had been issued to Palfreeman.

Sources close to supporters of Palfreeman said that his lawyer and representatives of the Australian consulate went to the Migration Directorate on September 25 and were told that there was a “ban” on Palfreeman leaving Bulgaria.

The lawyer and the consular representatives requested paperwork and official documentation but were denied it. Migration police who were asked who had imposed the ban declined to say, the sources said.

Balabanov said on September 26 that Palfreeman was being kept in Busmantsi (a facility in Sofia that can accommodate 400 people and which was set up to hold migrants illegally in the country) pending the outcome of the court action and “for his personal security”.

There was a procedural hiccough on September 25 when the Supreme Court of Cassation returned to the Sofia City Court the application against Palfreeman because the procedural step of serving papers on him personally had not been fulfilled. Instead, the court papers had been sent to Palfreeman’s lawyer, a move that was inadequate in legal procedures.

On Thursday, it was reported that the papers had been served on Palfreeman.

Bulgarian media reports queried why it had not been possible to serve papers on Palfreeman, given that there could no ambiguity about his whereabouts – in Busmantsi, which he could not leave.

On September 26, Bulgaria’s Deputy Justice Minister Nikolai Prodanov said that even when he left prison, the Australian had behaved aggressively, confirming his behaviour during his time in prison.

“This person has a level of aggression far above average. He was like that the moment he committed the crime, he has been the same for us all these 12 years. He was like that even when he got out of prison,” Prodanov said.

Prodanov conceded that the Court of Appeal had released Palfreeman from prison, but alleged that the court had been “misled” by some facts, such as Palfreeman’s tertiary education. There were no documents for this other than electronic reports that could be easily manipulated.

Bulgarian media said on Thursday that the application in the Supreme Court of Cassation was to be heard in open court.

Bulgarian law sets no deadline for the court to hand down a ruling.

Critics of the decision by the Court of Appeals in Sofia allege that is not taken in the light of all the evidence, including reports from prison authorities about Palfreeman. The case is being investigated by the Inspectorate of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

The SJC’s judicial college publicly criticised the Court of Appeals decision, which led the Bulgarian Judges Association, which is chaired by the presiding judge in the court decision to parole Palfreeman, to hit back that this represented a failure to defend the independence of the judiciary. The judges association issued a public call for the SJC judicial college to resign.

The Monov family repeatedly has raised the issue of the compensation that the court ordered Palfreeman to pay to them. Initially 400 000 leva (about 200 000 euro) at the time of the court order, with interest the sum has now reached 600 000. Of this, 3500 euro has been paid, at the order of Bulgarian court, from compensation ordered by the European Court of Human Rights to be paid in 2016 to Palfreeman for violations of his freedom of expression.

The Monov family has said that it wanted Palfreeman barred from leaving Bulgaria pending payment of the compensation.



The Sofia Globe staff

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