In Sofia, Bulgaria, Jock Palfreeman‘s appeal hearings have finally, after having begun in October 2010, ended. The court, in its wisdom, has decided to delay its final decision until some point in the next 30 days (see below).
There were many, er, “irregularities” in the original trial which terminated in December 2009 and at which Jock was sentenced to 20 years jail for the crime of murder. The most complete account available to the public of the deficiencies in the prosecution’s case is Dr. Simon Palfreeman’s closing address to the court.
Given that roughly the same conditions obtain then as now, it’s unlikely that the appeal will succeed. Assuming it doesn’t, a further appeal to Bulgaria’s High Court is possible; certainly, it would only be after this further appeal was exhausted that a final appeal might be launched within the EU court system. This is, in my opinion, the most likely scenario, and the EU courts are certainly better placed to address both allegations of corruption within the legal and political systems in Bulgaria, on the one hand, and the many failings of the police investigation and judicial process, on the other hand, which together have arguably exercised undue influence over the outcome.
In addition to a range of other sources, several recent Wikileaks confirm that US and EU officials are well aware of the endemic nature of this corruption. Most recently, the government has become embroiled in a corruption scandal involving the Prime Minister Boiko Borissov: only the support of the ultra-nationalist Ataka party has prevented its downfall. Of course, the allegations of corruption are unproven, appear to be politically-motivated, and the government also has other concerns, including the fate of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant.
(Note that both Bulgarian anarchists belonging to the Federation of Anarchists in Bulgaria (ФАБ / FAB), Australian and Bulgarian neo-Nazis have urged the courts to impose the harshest possible penalty upon Palfreeman.)
Bulgarian prosecutors demand life sentence for Australian convicted of fatal stabbing in Sofia
The Associated Press
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian prosecutors demanded a life sentence Wednesday for an Australian man who is appealing his conviction for stabbing a student to death.
Paul “Jock” Palfreeman was sentenced to 20 years in jail in December 2009 for fatally stabbing one man and wounding another during a street brawl in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.
Palfreeman, 24, has appealed the verdict, claiming he acted in self-defence after intervening to prevent an attack on a group of Roma. The court will announce its final verdict within a month.
In his final plea Wednesday, the Australian insisted he stabbed Andrei Monov in self-defence after the Bulgarian student and his friends attacked him.
The defendant said that on the night of the incident he tried to defend two Roma who were attacked by Monov and his group of about 15 friends. He argued he was defending his own life as well, adding that the charges against him were based “on intrigue and hearsay and not on arguments.”
Before the hearing, a human rights activist observing the trial also criticized some court proceedings.
“Our worries are about the unfair trial due to the lack of appropriate evidence uncovered by the investigation, due to inadequate assessment of the court of this evidence, and due to the unjust sentence,” Krasimir Kanev, head of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, told APTN.
During final arguments, the prosecution claimed that Palfreeman had killed the victim deliberately and demanded a life sentence.
The court heard also the victim’s father, Hristo Monov, who claimed the judges would become accomplices to a future murder if they reduced the Australian’s sentence when they released their final verdict.
He said that, instead of having his sentence reduced, Palfreeman should have his penalty increased to life without parole for stabbing his son.
Palfreeman has been in custody since the Dec. 2007 attack.
See also : Merry Christmas Jock (December 23, 2010) | Australian Paul Palfreeman appeals against jail term in Bulgaria, Herald Sun, January 18, 2011 | Aussie makes Bulgaria corruption claim, The Sydney Morning Herald (AAP), January 18, 2011 | Jock Palfreeman will kill again: victim’s father, Peter Wilson and Milena Hristova, The Australian, January 20, 2011 | Prosecutors demand life as Aussie pleads his innocence, The Sydney Morning Herald (AAP), January 20, 2011 | Bulgarian parents say Australian killer should not go free, Emma Alberici, ABC (AM), January 20, 2011 | 30-day wait for Jock Palfreeman appeal verdict, Boel Eriksson, The Mosman Daily, January 20, 2011
Note that in Moscow, which has a thriving fascist movement and like Bulgaria a strong and influential far right, police have reportedly arrested 21 anti-fascist protesters attending a rally to commemorate the murder on January 19, 2009 of
corporate human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and trollumnist journalist Anastasiya Baburova. The charges apparently include things like wearing a mask.
See also : January 19 Committee (Russia).