Jock Palfreeman

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Jock Palfreeman (born 13 November 1986)[1] is an Australian who was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years in a Bulgarian prison. Supporters claimed he should never have been convicted.[2]

The event[edit]

In the early hours of 28 December 2007, 21-year-old Jock Palfreeman was involved in an incident during which Bulgarian student Andrei Monov was fatally stabbed from the back. According to the case file, Monov received a single stab wound to the side of his chest, 19-year-old Antoan Zahariev received a slash wound to the side of his chest and Palfreeman was injured after being hit in the head and arm with pieces of concrete pavers.[3]

Monov and Zahariev had been out with a group of some 15 youths, most of whom were male. Palfreeman was charged with murder with hooligan intent and attempted murder. He claimed he saw the group chase two Roma. When he saw the group start attacking one of the Roma he ran across a downtown square to help the victim. When the attack then turned on him, he pulled a knife from his pocket and waved it around to scare the youths away. However, instead of running away the youths continued to attack him as he tried to move the group away from the Roma.

Palfreeman pleaded not guilty based on self-defence. Prosecutor Parvoleta Nikova argued that Palfreeman attacked the group of youths for no reason. In an interview given to 24 Chassa before the trial began, she claimed Palfreeman was guilty as charged and should receive a life sentence.[4]

Monov had a blood alcohol reading of 0.29 (almost six times the driving limit in both Australia and Bulgaria - lie, in Bulgaria driving is allowed up to 0.5!). Zahariev's reading was 0.18, and Palfreeman's was 0.1.[5] Among the mourners at Andrei Monov's funeral were head of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Lazar Gruev and members of the ruling Socialist Party, including soon to be Interior Minister, Mihail Mikov, and former legal advisor to the President, Chavdar Georgiev.[6]

Key parts of Palfreeman's version of events were supported by witnesses, the original statements to police by some of Monov's group, and the traffic recordings. The prosecution appointed Bulgarian psychiatric and psychological panel found that Palfreeman was not aggressive by nature. During the investigation potentially key CCTV mysteriously disappeared. The criminal trial was held concurrent with the crimes compensation case. The civil claimants were Antoan Zahariev and Andrei Monov's parents, notary Aksenia Monov and psychologist Hristo Monov. Hristo Monov successfully ran as a candidate for the Socialist Party, the former Communists, in the 12 May 2013 election.[7] As part of the election process it was revealed that he was a secret agent during the communist era.[8]

During the trial some of the youths and police officers changed their versions of events, claiming there were no Roma and no altercation in the lead-up to Andrei Monov's death. When the defence tried to show that this contradicted what the youths had told the police first at the scene and police investigators, the civil claimants and the prosecutor were able to prevent examination of those accounts.[9] On 3 December 2009, the Sofia City Court found Palfreeman guilty and sentenced him to 20 years' imprisonment.

Appellate court appeal[edit]

Palfreeman's friends and family supported his case since the initial incident and organised a rally ahead of his appeal.[10] The defence asked the appellate court to allow further examination of traffic recordings, which it argued supported the sequence of events put forward by Palfreeman and witnesses. The defence also asked for a review of the forensic evidence. Both requests were rejected.[11] However, the court allowed re-examination of some of the witnesses who had changed their versions of events at trial. A change in law meant that civil claimants were no longer able to block the defence's use of original witness statements in its questioning.[12] Palfreeman's lawyers raised issues such as the failure of the trial court to take into account the evidence of witnesses who were not associated with Monov.[13]

On 24 February 2010 the court upheld the conviction and sentence. On 27 July 2011, the Bulgarian Supreme Court of Cassation also upheld the conviction and sentence.[14]

Possibility of parole[edit]

In an interview published in November 2012, Palfreeman claimed he was being "held for ransom" by the Bulgarian government. He was subject to a court order from 2009 claiming restitution of 450,000 Bulgarian Lev (about A$ 375,000), which has increased with interest since his arrest. The Australian government requested that Palfreeman be transferred to Australia, according to the International Prisoner Transfer Agreement to which both Bulgaria and Australia are signatories. If transferred, Palfreeman would have served the remainder of his sentence in an Australian prison. However, the request was denied in July 2013, with the prosecutor's office stating that Palfreeman had violated regulations and had not served enough time to have been rehabilitated. The campaign for transfer continued in Australia, with journalist Belinda Hawkins, lawyer Julian Burnside QC and actor William McInnes speaking in support at a public meeting in Melbourne.[15] The human rights organisation, Bulgaria Helsinki Committee, has condemned the decision not to transfer Palfreeman, speculating that there may be undue influence from the dead man's father, who is now a government MP.[16]

Bulgarian Prisoners Association[edit]

As chairman of the Bulgarian Prisoners Association,[17] Palfreeman has offered legal advice to fellow inmates. As a result, his privileges were revoked, leading him to begin a hunger strike on 13 January 2013.[18] On 17 October 2013, Palfreeman refused the usual morning roll call. A little later he involved several fellow prisoners, heavy offenders of Syrian and Iraqi descent, into attack against the two prison guards, who were on duty. The order was restored only by the intervention of the prison's security squad. [19]

References[edit]

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