Bulgaria’s Supreme Court of Cassation said on October 7 that it would rule within two months on an application by the Prosecutor-General to review and suspend the parole granted to Australian murder convict Jock Palfreeman.
In September, the Sofia Court of Appeals overturned an earlier refusal by the Sofia City Court to grant parole to Palfreeman, who had served 11 years of a 20-year sentence for the December 2007 murder of student Andrei Monov.
Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov lodged an application in the Supreme Court of Cassation to overturn the decision by the Sofia Court of Appeals, on grounds including an allegation that the appeal court judges were not unbiased.
Palfreeman, who pleaded not guilty at all stages of his initial trial and has consistently protested his innocence, notified the Supreme Court of Cassation that he did not want to attend the October 7 hearing.
The hearing had been brought forward from an initial October 23 date because of the high level of public interest in the Palfreeman case, the Supreme Court of Cassation said earlier.
An Australian diplomatic representative attended the October 7 hearing, while outside, a group from Bulgaria’s ultra-nationalist VMRO party held a protest against the Sofia Court of Appeals ruling granting Palfreeman parole.
The parole ruling has been the subject of political controversy, with criticism from parties across the spectrum, which also comes against a background of looming local elections in Bulgaria. It also has caused crossfire within Bulgaria’s judiciary.
Kalin Angelov, counsel for Palfreeman, said that the only solution was for the Supreme Court of Cassation to reject the application by the Supreme Court of Cassation. He described as absurd the claim that the three-member panel of the Sofia Court of Appeals had handed down a ruling that was illegal.
After the ruling by the Sofia Court of Appeals, Palfreeman, instead of being released, was transferred from Sofia Central Prison to Busmantsi, a centre in Sofia for the detention of foreigners illicitly in the country, on the grounds that his Australian passport had expired.
Australian travel documents have been issued for Palfreeman but his detention at Busmantsi continues, on the orders of the Prosecutor-General pending the outcome of proceedings in the Supreme Court of Cassation. The legality of this continued detention has been called into question, and could result in a claim against Bulgaria by Palfreeman in the European Court of Human Rights.