Jock Palfreeman, a 23 year old from Sydney, has already spent three years in jail in Sofia, Bulgaria. This week his appeal against a 20 year jail sentence for a murder conviction begins.
Last Saturday, Jock’s many relatives, friends and supporters met in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens in solidarity with Jock, under the banner “Justice for Jock Palfreeman.”
While living in Sofia in December 2007, one night Jock came across 16 intoxicated men attacking two men of Roma background. Jock ran to the aid of the Roma men and was involved in the conflict as the attackers turned on him. During the ensuing conflict, the Roma men escaped while two of the intoxicated men suffered stab wounds, and one later died. Jock has always maintained that he was acting in self-defence and attempting to escape the conflict.
He was charged under Bulgarian law with premeditated murder and attempted murder with anti-social intent. He was refused bail and sentenced to 20 years jail with a 450 000 Bulgarian Leva ($375 000 Australian) civil fine.
The rally on Saturday was to bring awareness and support to the appeal for his case starting on October 21 in Sofia. The original trial was rife with corruption and flaws, all considerably inconsistent with Jock’s human rights. Crucial evidence has been lost and altered to suit the prosecutors. Critical video footage from nearby CCTV cameras was deleted due to delays by the prosecution and electrical faults. Some key witnesses have not been interviewed and others have had their statements blocked by the prosecution. Statements made by the involved Bulgarian men have been consistently changed over the two years, some claiming they were not drunk, had not seen or been involved with Romas and that they did nothing to provoke Jock.
The appeal will be held before a new court and three new judges, with a reputation for equality and fair judgement. The appeal will be based on reviewing the decisions and comments of the biased, flawed court of the past three years.
Jock’s father, Simon Palfreeman, addressed the gathering stated last weekend, before flying out to be with his son in Sofia during the appeal.
“We hope that these three judges will acknowledge that the original trial was severely flawed and give Jock the justice he deserves,” Mr Palfreeman said.
Standing in the Botanical Gardens, Mr Palfreeman and one of Jock’s younger brothers, Spencer, gave emotional speeches outlining Jock’s case and thanking the people present for their ongoing support.
The Palfreeman’s plea is for justice to be done. They hope the tragedy befallen the family of the deceased is not to be served retribution with deceit, and that there is no place for this inequality in the courts.
“Their grief will remain with them for the rest of their lives. That is why it is even more important that we all see justice is truly done and that injustice and revenge does not condemn another young man,” Jock’s father told the rally of his own extended family and friends.
Jock is being held in the International section of Sofia Central Prison. He is a favourite amongst inmates, never giving up in the face of such unfairness. As he did in 2007, Jock is always standing up for and giving strength to individuals in prison who may need his help.
In an impossibly difficult to imagine three years, Jock’s family has constantly flown between Australia and Bulgaria and visited Jock in prison.
“It was the strength and humour shown by Jock that has supported me,” Mr Palfreeman said.
“Now it is a passion not to see injustice rule over a young man’s life.”
The success of the rally last Saturday shows that Jock is not alone.
With the court appeal now underway, Jock is in need of more aid and support than ever. His supporters ask for letters to be sent to Australian MPs, to make donations for his prison costs and to sign petitions.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
For more information on how to help, the case, trial and an updated report on the appeal head to www.freejock.net
BY TOM AINSWORTH