Tenth anniversary of Sofia street brawl that led to Palfreeman’s conviction


December 28 2017 was a grim date – the 10th anniversary of an altercation on the streets of Sofia that had tragic consequences, leading to the death of Andrei Monov, a 20-year-old Bulgarian law student.

Jock Palfreeman, an Australian serving with the British army was on a Christmas visit to Bulgaria at the time. Early in the hours of December 28th 2007 Palfreeman, who was with a group of friends, witnessed a group of 15 drunken football fans attacking a Roma. Palfreeman intervened and was subsequently charged with the first degree murder of Monov after he (Palfreeman) drew a knife when the group started hurling pavement stones at him.

Palfreeman was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His subsequent appeal was rejected. The judges’ reasonings varied alarmingly between the various processes. The processes reeked of corruption with key participants changing their testimony and other witnesses’ statements being disregarded altogether.

Throughout most of the past decade Palfreeman has been incarcerated in Sofia Central Prison. I have personally visited and interviewed Palfreeman many times. We have had many long conversations about the incident in question as well as his longstanding political commitments. Palfreeman is strong-willed, stubborn, sometimes impetuous, but certainly not a killer.

I have long since concluded that he has been unfairly maligned by the Bulgarian justice system and the tabloids. For all that, Palfreeman has always stressed that he would intervene again if confronted by a similar situation, so rejecting the “wrong place, wrong time, wrong person” way in which the whole incident has been framed. He believed he was right to get involved.

During his time in jail – in which he has endured hunger strikes, punishment beatings, spells in solitary confinement and the withdrawal of many privileges, Palfreeman has founded the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association and campaigned relentlessly for the rights of fellow prisoners. His story has spawned a book by an Australian journalist – Every Parent’s Nightmare – a degree of publicity in his home country, but little action from the Australian government itself. In Britain, sadly, there has been no coverage at all.

Suffice to say that 10 years in a young man’s life is a lifetime, not only for him but for his family in Australia.

In the New Year you can read an interview with Jock Palfreeman in which he will outline current grievances.

In the meantime Palfreeman has launched an urgent plea for international solidarity with all prisoners in Sofia Prison. This follows a sharp downturn in conditions – including blatant human rights abuses after the April 2017 reinstatement of the discredited director of Sofia Prisons, Peter Krestev. You can read the statement in full here.

Bulgaria: Urgent Call for International Solidarity with the Prisoners in Sofia Prison

Watch this space for an exclusive interview with Jock Palfreeman in January 2018.