Human Rights Scandal in Bulgaria: Would Norway take a stance?


Case of Jock Palfreeman in context of Norwegian taxpayer money invested in human rights and rule of law in Bulgaria 

October 10, 2019, Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends (BDF), New York — Press Release, For Immediate Release

Norway has invested millions of euro of taxpayer money in the last 10 years in the Bulgarian Justice and Home Affairs system, for the upholding of the rule of law and human rights, in line with EU standards. This is done via the Norwegian Financial Mechanism/EEA grants. They constitute the major financial contribution of Norway to the EU, especially to its poorer members, of which Bulgaria is at the top of the list.

Two Bulgarian Ministries are current recipients of Norwegian funds for projects on rule of law and human rights via the 2014-2021 Norwegian funding cycle: Bulgarian Ministry of Justice (30 million euro) and Bulgarian Ministry of Home Affairs (21.5 million euro). These same Bulgarian Ministries are currently actively and openly engaged in a case of human rights abuse, known internationally, regarding the unlawful detention in Bulgaria of Jock Palfreeman, foreign national, Australian, ex-prisoner.

Palfreeman is also the chair of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association for Rehabilitation (BPRA), the only registered NGO in Bulgaria for the defense of the rights of prisoners in the country, current and former.

Palfreeman was released from Bulgarian prison on parole by the Bulgarian Court of Appeals with judgment of September 19, 2019. Since then, Palfreeman has been held in detention on conflicting, unjustifiable grounds by the Bulgarian Ministry of Home Affairs, with support from the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice, at a detention center for foreigners in Busmanzi, Sofia. The case resembles state kidnapping. International media coverage on the case is abundant, international human rights organizations have made statements.

Perpetrators in the kidnapping of Palfreeman, Bulgarian Ministry of Home Affairs and Bulgarian Ministry of Justice, are Norwegian partners on the acquisition of millions of euro of Norwegian taxpayer money for the upholding of human rights in Bulgaria. Is the Norwegian government going to take a stance, given its long-term monetary investment and its principle commitment to the rule of law and human rights in Bulgaria, in line with EU standards?

Prime Minister Borissov, let Palfreeman go!

photo JPSeptember 30, 2019 – New York  

Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends (New York) petitions Bulgarian Prime Minister on the case of the unlawful detention of Australian national Palfreemen in Bulgaria. The petition is copied to the Ombudsman of Bulgaria, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel.

Petition: Prime Minister Borissov, let Palfreeman go! (see below)

Day 20 of hunger strike in Sofia prison against corruption and abuse of power

photo JP

PRESS RELEASE: May 10, 2019 — New York

Jock Palfreeman, chairperson of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association for Rehabilitation (BPRA), commenced the hunger strike on April 21, 2019 in protest of corruption and abuse of power in Sofia prison. Palfreeman declared the strike after experiencing two years of repressions of BPRA and himself as chairperson, coming directly from the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice and via their subordinates, the Sofia prison administration.

During the strike, repressions of Palfreeman have continued. They culminated in the creation of a life-endangering situation for a person in a vulnerable health state, as during the hunger strike Palfreeman was placed for medical observation in one of the units of Sofia prison hospital, not any, but the Infectious Disease Unit.

Since the beginning of the strike, Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends – New York has addressed the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice with accountability questions on the case, multiple times. We have also written to the Norwegian government, which currently partners with the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice on a 30 million euro grant for bringing the Bulgarian prison system “in line with international human rights standards”. 

The Norwegian government has recently responded to our questions on the case by saying that It is the government of Bulgaria that is responsible for the administration and running of all correctional facilities in Bulgaria”. So far, we have not heard a word from the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice.

The hunger strike of Palfreeman against corruption and abuse of power continues. We continue too, by addressing EU government institutions and civil society organizations working on human rights and rule of law in the Union, of which Bulgaria is a member state.

Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends, New York



Hunger strike in Sofia prison continues, repressions too, and silence of governments


Press Release, May 6, 2019 — New York

The hunger strike of Jock Palfreeman in protest of corruption and abuse of power in Sofia prison continues – 16 days today. Palfreeman is the Chairman of the Board of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association for Rehabilitation (BPRA). BPRA is the only NGO in Bulgaria for direct representation and advocacy of prisoners’ rights. In the last two years, BPRA and Palfreeman have been subjected to constant repressions, inspired and supported by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice.

During the hunger strike, the repressions of Palfreeman from Bulgarian prison authorities have continued. These include harassment and threats by prison guards, denial of access to prison facilities, isolation from other prisoners during outdoors time, and his placement for medical observation at the Infectious Disease Unit of the Sofia Prison Hospital.

Since the beginning of the hunger strike, Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends has sent information on the case and has asked accountability questions to the government of Bulgaria – Ministry of Justice and Council of Ministers, as well as to the government of Norway – the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government of Norway is the partner to the Bulgarian government on a current 30 million Euro grant from Norway for Justice reform in Bulgaria.

During the hunger strike, Bulgarian and Norwegian media have made publications on the case. So far, Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends has not received any response to our accountability questions, neither from the Bulgarian, nor from the Norwegian government.

For more information, see our previous press release, April 26, 2019.

Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends, New York 





Гладна стачка на Полфрийман срещу корупцията и злоупотребите с власт в Софийския затвор

Photo Jock Hunger Strike

Ню Йорк — 26 април, 2019 г.

Ние сме български емигранти в САЩ и Европа, запознати с проблемите в системата на българските затвори. Декларираме солидарност с гладната стачка на Джок Полфрийман, започнала на 21 април, 2019 г. в Казичене, отделение на Софийския затвор.

Гладната стачка на Полфрийман, председател на Управителния съвет на Българско затворническо сдружение за рехабилитация (БЗСР), алармира за проблеми с корупция и злоупотреби с власт в Софийския затвор. За тези проблеми БЗСР даде обществена гласност и миналата година във връзка с бягствата от Софийския затвор.

Освен за проблеми в Софийския затвор, БЗСР дава постоянна гласност и за състоянието в другите затвори на страната и общата корекционна система: нечовешки битови условия, недопустимо поведение на надзирателите, репресии срещу членове и симпатизанти на БЗСР – единствената в страната организация за пряко представителство на правата на затворници, настоящи и бивши.

Проблемите в българските затвори упoрстват, въпреки дългогодишните и много-милионни инвестици за ремонти и реформи от страна на българската държава и Норвежки финансов механизъм. До сега, Норвежки финансов механизъм е инвестирал над седем милиона евро. В момента Министерство на правосъдието работи по новата програма на Норвежки финансов механизъм (2014-21), по която са предвидени 30 милиона евро, повечето от които са предназначени за затворите.

Българските затвори в момента са под управлението на ВМРО чрез зам. министър на правосъдието Проданов. От година насам, българските медии отразяват корупционни скандали около ВМРО – продажби на български паспорти, “апартамент гейт”Също от годна насам наблюдаваме активна лична разправа с Полфрийман и БЗСР от страна на зам. миннистър на правосъдието Николай Проданов (ВМРО).

Настояваме репресиите срещу Полфрийман и БЗСР от страна на зам. министър Проданов и зам. началник Tрайков от Софийския затвор да спрат! Отправяме апел към български и чуждестранни журналисти да обърнат спешно внимание на гладната стачка на Полфрийман! Алармираме Норвежки финансов механизъм относно корупционни проблеми в средите на проектния им партньор в България по програма “Правосъдие” – Главна дирекция за изпълнение на наказанията (ГДИН) на Министерство на правосъдието, под ръководството на зам. министър Проданов.

Може да изразите солидарност с гладната стачка на Полфрийман до Министерство на правосъдието по е-мейл: или по поща: ул. Славянска 1, София 1040.






Hunger Strike of Palfreeman in Protest of Corruption and Abuse of Power in Sofia Prison

Photo Jock Hunger Strike

New York – – April 26, 2019

We are Bulgarian immigrants in the U.S. and Europe who are well aware of the problems in the Bulgarian prison system. And we declare solidarity with the hunger strike of Jock Palfreeman, which commenced on April 21, 2019 in Kazichene, a site of Sofia prison.

The hunger strike of Palfreeman, Chairman of the Board of Bulgarian Prisoner’s Rehabilitation Association (BPRA), is a desperate protest against the problems with corruption and abuse of power in Sofia prison. BPRA gave publicity about these problems a year ago, in relation to the cases of escapes from Sofia prison.

In addition to Sofia Prison, BPRA gives regular publicity on the conditions in other prisons and the correctional system in Bulgaria as a whole: inhumane living conditions, violence by prison guards, and repressions against members and supporters of BPRA, the only organization in the country for the direct representation of the rights of prisoners, current and former.

Problems in Bulgarian prisons persist despite years of effort and investment of millions of Euros in renovations and reforms, from Bulgarian authorities and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism. Up till now, the Norwegian Financial Mechanism has invested more than seven million Euros. At this moment, the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice is working on the implementation of the new program of the Norwegian Financial Mechanism (2014-2021) which has allocated 30 million Euros for justice reform, most of which is designated for prisons.

Bulgarian prisons at the moment are under the management of the VMRO party through the Deputy Minister of Justice Prodanov. For a year now, the Bulgarian media has been covering corruption scandals around the VMRO party – sale of Bulgarian citizenship, the “apartmentgate” scandal, etc. For one year now, we have also been observing an active personal battle of Deputy Minister Prodanov with Palfreeman and BPRA.

We insist that Deputy Minister Prodanov and Chief of Staff of Sofia Prison Traykov stop repressions of Palfreeman and BPRA! We appeal to Bulgarian and international journalists to pay urgent attention to the hunger strike of Palfreeman! We alert the Norwegian Financial Mechanism about corruption problems within their project partner, General Directorate “Execution of Sentences” (GDES) at the Ministry of Justice under the leadership of Deputy Minister Prodanov.

You can express solidarity with the hunger strike of Palfreeman to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice, via e-mail:, or via post: Slavyanska Street #1, Sofia 1040.