Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs has taken issue with the portrayal in a media statement by Bulgaria’s Justice Ministry of talks between minister Daniel Kirilov and Australian chargé d’ affaires Jon Philp on the Jock Palfreeman case.
Philp and other officials have held talks in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia with Kirilov, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, and with Deputy Foreign Minister Petko Doikov. The talks with Doikov were attended “briefly” by Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, according to a Bulgarian Foreign Ministry statement.
The series of meetings has arisen after Palfreeman has been prevented from leaving Bulgaria pending the outcome of proceedings in the Supreme Court of Cassation, lodged by the Prosecutor-General, to review and suspend the parole granted to Palfreeman after he had served 11 years of a 20-year sentence for the murder of student Andrei Monov.
After the talks with Kirilov, a statement on the Justice Ministry website quoted Philp as saying that Australia was aware that everything was currently proceeding according to Bulgarian law and there were no deviations in the legal process.
As reported by Australian media, a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that Philp explicitly did not use the words that he had been quoted as using by the Bulgarian Justice Ministry.
The spokesperson said that Philp had expressed Australia’s acknowledgment that, in a formal sense, Palfreeman had received due process through the Bulgarian courts prior to and including the parole decision.
Philp had “reiterated Australia’s strong position that we would be concerned if factors other than legal considerations were influencing Mr Palfreeman’s case”.
The Australian diplomat had pointed to concerns including a risk that outside pressure might influence the outcome, “which as previously stated would be of significant concern to Australia”.
“Importantly, he raised Australia’s concerns that the legal basis for Mr Palfreeman’s continued detention remains unclear and that, consistent with parole being granted, he should be released and allowed to return to Australia,” the spokesperson said.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry statement after the talks between Philp and Doikov and Zaharieva quoted Philp as saying: “We are convinced that the rule of law is respected in Bulgaria and that justice is independent”.
The October 8 statement by the Prosecutor’s Office after the talks with Tsatsarov did not attribute any comments to Philp.
In all three cases, the media statements by the Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs appeared only in Bulgarian and had not been posted, by the early afternoon of October 9, in the English-language versions of those sites.
(Photo, of the DFAT building in the Australian Capital Territory: Adam Carr)