Continued Assaults on Asylum Seekers in Sofia Central Prison
On the 06/07/14 at 8.30am the guard Peter Petrov performed the morning roll call, he entered 11 cell and started shouting in Bulgarian, a language no one present understood. As the roll call finished for that cell he then started to assault a mentally ill man from behind as he was not moving fast enough. The mentally ill man is about 45kgs, about 55 years old and a citizen of Comoros. He then retaliated and slapped the guard back after the guard Peter Petrov hit him and kicked him again, the guard came at the Comoros Islander again and the African took a chair to keep the guard away from him. 3 other guards came and only saw the Comoros islander with the chair and so they beat him too. Peter Petrov then ran out of the cell, locked all the cell doors and called for "assistance". Forty guards came from two work shifts, from the Saturday evening shift and the incoming Sunday day shift, as now shifts are 12 hours. The forty guards summarily beat everyone in the cell - the man from Comoros, 4 Afghanis, 1 Pakistani, 1 Dutch man and an Algerian. They were not resisting in any way and most of the wounds inflicted by the guards are on their backs as they tried to cover their faces on the ground.
The man from Comoros was most badly beaten, with a cut face, bleeding eye, bleeding nose, cut lips and swollen and cuts and swelling to his head. All over his body was covered in welts from the batons. The Pakistani too had welts and pink bruises as did the others in perfect shapes of batons, the Pakistani received a cut head and several of the Afghanis, apart from the welts on their backs and forearms, they had black and bleeding eyes. The seven men were beaten with batons, boots, they were stomped, hit and hit into walls and the ground.
The beating continued for about 20-30 minutes. The guards then indiscriminately started to break
furniture used by prisoners for playing cards in the corridor.
After the bulk of the guards left, the guards called the prisoners Hisham Karmo and Budimir Kjovic, a Syrian national and a Serbian national. Together with the guards they wrote witness statements or "explanations" for the victims and intimidated the victims to sign the statements. The victims were told if they complained they would get extra prison sentences and that the guards would beat them again. In these "witness statements" written by Hisham and Budimir, it states that the Comoros man attacked the guard unprovoked and the guard had to defend himself. A deal was struck between
the Hisham and Budimir and the guard Peter Petrov and the rest of the guards that this would be the official version that Hisham and Budimir would testify to but also help maintain through intimidation of victims, Only the man from Comoros was allowed to see a doctor. As the official version of events did not include the other seven victims as having been assaulted they were not permitted to see a doctor for the entirety of Sunday. At 8.30pm the guards changed shifts and again the new guards would not allow the other 6 victims to see the duty doctor. On the same day as the assault the victims came to me (Jock Palfreeman) as the chairman of the Bulgarian Prisoners' Association and as a known human rights activist and asked me for help. I immediately called the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee to inform their chairman Krassimir Kanev of the assault and he supplied valuable legal advice as to how to proceed.
With prisoners acting as translators the victims wrote real statements testifying the details of the assault free of intimidation by the prison's auxiliary bullies. we brought many prisoners together and discussed how to proceed, many prisoners supported the victims and we promised to support the victims if any prisoner working for the prison administration tried to intimidate them or use physical violence to silence them.
On 07/07/14 (the next day) members of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee came to meet with the victims, they took their statements and conveyed an official complaint to the prosecutor's office. The members of the Helsinki Committee then personally escorted the victims to the prison infirmary and supervised as medical injury reports were written, although copies of said medical reports were not made or given to the victims or their representatives. The evening of the 07/07/14 the guard Peter Petrov was returned to work in 10th continue his attempt to intimidate me, Jock Palfreeman, as he had been informed of my complaint against him the previous Wednesday (02/07/14) after he assaulted me by kicking me with his boots, hitting me with a large metal key, pushing and pulling me in an attempt to provoke physical confrontation. However I did not react as the man from Comoros did, had I, I would have suffered the same fate as the other victims. I realised that this guard is highly violent and dangerous.
Whether it was his character or he was a racist or he was drunk or on drugs no one could say but I realised after he assaulted me on two separate occasions that the assaults would continue and only get worse. So on 03/07/14 I sent a complaint to the Director of the prison Peter Krester and a request to have this violent and dangerous guard moved from our block.
No measures were taken and the guard Peter Petrov 4 days later subsequently attacked the man from Comoros and instigated the mass assault on the other seven victims.
I, Jock Palfreeman, have now again become a target of Peter Petrov, the guard and as of the date of writing this, 09/07/14, the prison authorities have failed to take any measures to prevent the guards from assaulting prisoners or to protect me or the other 8 victims.
The assault on the 8 men was extremely vicious and so I started the explanations from that point as opposed to the first assaults upon myself.
On the 10/07/14 (Thursday), the guard Peter Petrov was moved to a different part of the prison.
On 14/07/14 representatives from the Ombudsman's office entered the prison to conduct an investigation into the mass assault, they met with the victims and witnesses and briefly with myself.
On 16/07/14 the vice-minister of justice, responsible specifically for the running of prisons met with the victims of the mass assault. Although there are concerns about the Vice-Minister's personal connections with Budimir Kjovic who was also called to the meeting as a friend of the Vice-Minister of Justice.
On 17/07/14 the state prosecutor met with the victims to collect their statements from them personally.
The continued pressure and intimidation from the prisoners Budimir Kjovic and Hisham Karmo upon the victims to give false testimonies is a continuing concern, not to mention their attempt to also intimidate me into not showing solidarity to the victims. It just another example of mafia criminals working with the state apparatus of oppression. The prison allows these bullies to continue their drug businesses within the prison, the prison staff take a cut and in exchange it is in their interest to protect the prison administration and guards as they provide the protection for their business.
Earlier this year a Director Yosofifov, director of work and pay of Sofia Central Prison was arrested along with the friend of Budimir Kjovic for trafficking contraband into the prison, earlier this month the director Yosofifov was formally fired for violating the ethics code.
There can never be any compromise with violators of human rights and mafia!
When injustice becomes law
Resistance becomes duty
Chairman, Bulgarian Prisoners' Rehabilitation Association
Call For International Solidarity With Anti-fascist Jock Palfreeman
A few days ago Australian anti-fascist Jock Palfreeman was assaulted in Sofia Central Prison in Bulgaria (he says it was not "too badly") but yesterday [July 6] the same guard assaulted another prisoner, an elderly man, and some of that man's compatriots came to his assistance. These seven were then set upon by 40 guards, who brutally beat them.
Jock, in his role of secretary of the Bulgarian Prisoners Association, phoned a number of lawyers to help defend those assaulted. Now Jock has been threatened by the same prison guard has threatened him with another beating.
It is no surprise that not only Jock's role within the prison with the Bulgarian Prisoners Association but also because of the various days of action for Jock being organised around the globe to highlight his case. You can contact the Bulgarian prison authorities [details here] or organise a protest at your nearest Bulgarian embassy or consulate.
Twenty one year old Australian Jock Palfreeman started his travels around Europe in early 2006. Having visited numerous countries and stayed in a small town an hour drive from Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, living and working with his friends, he returned to visit them at the end of December 2007 after traveling to the UK.
On a night out with these friends that December, he witnessed a group of 16 football hooligans associated with various fascist groups attack two Roma (gypsy) boys, and he stepped in to defend them. He tried to keep them away by waving a knife at them, but they attacked him anyway, not only with fists and punches but also by throwing blocks of concrete at him. Jock defended himself with the knife. As a result of the fight, one of the attackers, Andrei Monov, died and another was seriously injured.
The dead man turned out to be from a well known Bulgarian family with political connections and, after 2 long years of procedurally dubious trial with a clear political flavour, Jock was found guilty of murder and attempted murder, and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and given a 375 000 Australian dollar fine. The case was built solely on the statements taken from the nazis, who claimed that Jock randomly attacked the group, chasing them with the intent to kill someone; whilst key witnesses and other possible witnesses were never interviewed and the CCTV footage from the scene mysteriously went missing.
After numerous petitions submitted to the court by the defence, only one was accepted and this was merely to re-question five of the witnesses to explain why they all had initially stated that the fight between the group and the Roma boys actually taken place, but had then denied ever having said this. Despite the court now accepting that the fight between the group and Roma boys had actually taken place, the Appeal court upheld the original sentence.
It is worth mentioning that despite the Bulgarian authorities trying to portray Jock's assailants as “normal students”, they had been members of, or had connections to, far right groups in Bulgaria. One of these “normal students”, Emil Alexiev, is a member of Bulgarian neo-Nazi group National Resistance and in 2010 had been arrested for taking part in a brutal attack against refugee rights activists on a tram, which left a number of them with very serious injuries.
In prison Jock never surrendered and quickly became a thorn in the side of the authorities, helping fellow prisoners by teaching English and acting as a jailhouse lawyer, as well as highlighting the authorities’ abuses and corruption. Additionally, he founded the Bulgarian Prisoners Association (BPA), the first official organisation to fight for rights of prisoners in Bulgaria.
Due to Jock’s activist work as chairman of the BPA, helping fellow prisoners and giving legal advice, Jock has suffered numerous incidents of repression at the hands of prison authorities, such as frequent cell searches, periods in isolation, beatings, problems with receiving books and access to his studies.
On January 13, 2013, Jock went on hunger strike and, after 30 days of drinking only watery drinks and losing 20 kg, he managed finally to get an official answer to the various requests that he had submitted to the prison authorities in connection with his mistreatment, and which had all been ignored, and he continues fighting his corner by the legal means open to him.
Over a year ago the Australian government sent a request for Jock’s transfer to an Australian prison, which can only happen if Jock’s friends and family pay the price that the Bulgarian court ordered to be paid in compensation to his victims and their families. Jock has therefore been forced to conclude that he is currently being held for ransom by the Bulgarians judicial system.
Jock’s family is currently collecting the necessary funds and you can donate by visiting:
You can visit BPA website at: https://bulgarianprisonersassociation.wordpress.com/
Freedom For Jock Palfreeman FB group: www.facebook.com/groups/123586691003205/
some archive info on support actions, jock's letters etc: http://anarchistsolidarity.wordpress.com/category/jock-palfreeman/
good mainstream book about Jock by Belinda Hawkins: http://everyparentsnightmare.com/
At the same time we need to keep spreading information about Jock's case as wide as possible and we need to show Jock our solidarity, so he knows he is not alone and authorities know it as well.
You can write to Jock at:
Sofia Central Prison,
21 General Stoletov Boulevard,
Sofia 1309, BULGARIA
Solidarity Letter From Joel Almgren*
Instead of commenting on the fairy tales that the tabloids have written about me the last time I would like to take the opportunity to make you aware of something else.
Jock Palfreeman is an Australian citizen who is doing time in a prison in Bulgaria, sentenced for to 20 years for murder in defence of two Roma boys from a group of nazi Levski supporters. In Sweden one normally gets parole after having served 2/3 of your sentence, but this is not the reality in Bulgaria where you serve the entire sentence. Let us say that in Sweden you attack a demonstration with everyone from children in baby strollers to oldies with walking frames. For that you get a sentence of 6 months, which in Sweden means that you are free in 4 months [Joel here refers to the Nazi attack in Kärrtorp, were the Nazis got a 6 months sentences each, the leader of neo-Nazi Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska Motståndsrörelsen) in Stockholm got a 8 month sentence]. But, if in Bulgaria you help two children when they are being attacked by a group of Nazis, you get instead a sentence of 20 years, you also serve all that time in prison.
Inside the Sofia Central Prison, I have started Bulgaria's first prison union - the Bulgarian Prisoners' Association. The prison union helps the prisoners financially as well as helping to fill in forms and to write appeals. This is because 80% of the prisoners in the prison cannot read or write, and many of them do not have any economic resources. That means if you are put in isolation or get beaten up by the prison guards, you are not able to report it or have enough money to hire an attorney. Additionally, in Bulgaria, as in many other places in Europe, in addition to the people who have been found guilty of crimes who are put in prison, those who have been forced to flee wars in the home countries, becoming clandestine migrants, are locked up in prison too and have even fewer resources than the Bulgarian prisoners.
[*Swedish anti-fascist currently on remand for defending an anti-racist demonstration in Kärrtorp, near Stockholm, from a vicious attack by the neo-Nazi group Swedish National Resistance.]
[by letter 24/06/14]