I’ve just received news that Jock Palfreeman, the Australian anti-fascist who is currently serving a 20 year prison term in Sofia, Bulgaria (for murder and attempted murder: see freejock.net for details on his case) has been placed in isolation. Isolation means Jock is in solitary confinement, and has no contact with fellow prisoners. He also has no access to books, radio or television. He is unable to work, to study, or to attend the prison gymnasium. All his meals are eaten inside his cell. The only opportunity he has to leave his cell is for the 90 minute period each day in which he is allowed to exercise, on his own, in the prison courtyard.
Jock’s placement in isolation is the result of a law introduced in June 2009. This law states, in essence, that any foreign prisoner facing a possible sentence of more than 15 years has to remain in isolation until such time as they’ve received a final verdict on their case. Thus far, Jock has been convicted by the City Court (December 2009), but his conviction is subject to appeal: first, in a case to be heard by the High Court and then, potentially, by the Supreme Court. In other words if, as expected, the appeals process takes a further two years, Jock may be kept in isolation for this period.
It should be noted that, at the time the law was introduced until now, Jock was and is the only prisoner to be affected by the new law; further, that while Jock has previously been informed that, as a result of the new law, he would be placed in isolation, this is the first occasion upon which prison authorities have actually done so. Previous proclamations that he would be placed in isolation — of which there were several — were eventually ended when prison authorities were informed by legal advocates that such treatment was contrary to the terms and provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.