September 29, 2021
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

A night out in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, in late 2007, changed the life of a happy go lucky, fairly alternative, young man – Jock Palfreeman. For the next 13+ years he was to remain a captive of the Bulgarian state, first in prison for 12 years, and then refused permission to leave the country after his passport was seized. Tonight Jock, an Australian citizen resident in Bristol before his visit to Bulgaria, returns to Bristol for the first time to talk about his experiences & prisoner solidarity organising whilst in prison: 29 September, 7pm, at The Lion, 206 Whitehall Rd, BS5. Hosted by Bristol AntiFascists.

As Bristol ABC reported back on 12 December 2009:

After nearly 2 years on remand in Sofia Central prison, Bulgaria, he was on 2 December 2009 found guilty of of premeditated murder and attempted murder with antisocial (hooligan) intent. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, and a 450,000 leva (375,000 Aussie dollars) fine.
The bare facts of the case are these: in late December 2007 Jock was on a night out in Sofia. Quite late in the evening he saw a group of at least 15 men attacking 2 Roma (gypsy) people. It is generally accepted this group were football hooligans, with neo-nazi tendencies, and this was a racist attack (the Roma are heavily persecuted in Bulgaria). Jock intervened, and the Roma escaped. The gang turned on Jock and attacked him with concrete blocks. He defended himself with a knife, killing one attacker and injuring another. Unfortunately for him, the dead man came from a well-known Bulgarian family of high status.
2 years on he has been found guilty, after a trial littered with dubious activities – missing video footage, changed witness statements, failure to interview key witnesses, conspiracy by the gang and almost certainly the cops, other evidence refused in court, abuse of procedures and Jock’s rights. There seems little doubt to us that this became both a political trial and a miscarriage of justice.

Jock in court in Bulgaria, 2009

And that was really only the start of Jock’s story! He wasn’t to leave Bulgaria until early 2021. In those intervening years, 10 more of them in prison, he resisted harassment & constant repression & threats. He also became the co-founder of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Association (BPRA), fighting for prisoner’s rights from inside Bulgaria’s horrific prison system.

After some initial misgivings, his case was picked up by prisoner solidarity groups such as Brighton & Bristol ABC’s, and by anti-fascist groups around the world. His family & friends back in Australia & elsewhere put immense work into campaigning for him, leading to international media interest & comment, and indeed international political conflict at governmental levels. A first book on his case/situation came out in 2013 – reviews herebut the repressive right-wing Governments in Bulgaria refused to allow Jock freedom for many years to come…almost certainly one reason was that he’d killed one of their own, in self-defence.

Jock lived in Bristol for a while before travelling to Bulgaria, he’d also joined the British army! Back then he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But let’s give the guy some respect – he’s not only survived this nightmare, but he fought back again and again, and organised in solidarity with other prisoners in prison – in a foreign country. Respect! Get along tonight to hear what he has to say.
Further reading:
Interview in 2019 on prisoner organising in Bulgaria
Links to Bristol ABC articles from 2009

(Feature image – Bristol AntiFascists)

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