The hearing in Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation of an application to review and suspend the parole granted to Australian murder convict Jock Palfreeman has been brought forward from October 23 to October 7.
The hearing has been brought forward because of the high public interest in the case and the ban on Palfreeman leaving the Busmantsi centre for temporary detention of foreigners.
In September 2019, the Court of Appeals in Sofia granted parole to Palfreeman, who was 11 years into a 20-year sentence for the December 2007 murder of student Andrei Monov. Palfreeman, who pleaded not guilty, has consistenly protested his innocence.
After the ruling by the Court of Appeals, Palfreeman was transferred from Sofia Central Prison to Busmantsi on the grounds that his Australian passport had expired and he had no valid identification documents.
On October 1, the head of Bulgaria’s Migration Directorate, Nikolai Nikolov, told local media that an order to expel Palfreeman from Bulgaria had been issued, but had not been implemented because the Australian did not have identification documents.
Nikolov confirmed that Australia had issued travel documents to Palfreeman.
This past weekend, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said that there were two bans on Palfreeman leaving Bulgaria, imposed by the Prosecutor’s Office. These bans were in connection with pre-trial proceedings and in relation to the serving of a sentence of imprisonment.
Reports on September 30 said that Palfreeman had lodged an application, through his lawyer, in the Sofia City Court to have the ban on him leaving Bulgaria overturned.
Bulgarian media reports have argued, quoting lawyers, that the continued detention of Palfreeman in Busmantsi is illegal.
The September 2019 Court of Appeals ruling on parole for Palfreeman has caused considerable controversy in Bulgaria, with condemnation of the ruling across the political spectrum. It also has led to crossfire among members of the judiciary.
On October 1, Supreme Court of Cassation President Lozan Panov criticised the Supreme Judicial Council’s judicial college as having abdicated its duty to defend the independence of the judiciary.
Judge Panov, who last week did not participate in last week’s discussion of the Palfreeman case at the SJC judicial college, referred to the college’s criticism of the appeal court judges who ruled to allow Palfreeman parole.
“This whole approach, in which hatred and loathing is directed towards magistrates, whether or not we agree with rulings, is a return to an epoch which, I believe, should be forgotten,” Panov said.