Case of Bulgarian government award to Dianko Markov, a Nazi affiliate

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Letter

to the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the United Nations, with information for institutions and organizations in Bulgaria and internationally, regarding the problem with the recent government award of Dianko Markov, a Nazi affiliate

October 25th, 2018 – New York

Dear Mr. Panayotov,            

On October 4th, 2018, at a ceremony in Sofia, the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense gave an award to Dianko Markov. This is a person known to the public as a member of the Union of Bulgarian National Legions, a pro-Nazi organization, during World War II. In recent years, Dianko Markov is also known to the public by certain pronouncements, including from the Bulgarian Parliament tribune, which repeat classic Nazi convictions and formulas. For example, the characterization of Jews as “hostile population” with which he explained and justified their deportation to the death camps during the Holocaust. To this moment, he has not apologized for his pronouncements.

The award with a government prize to Dianko Markov caused great public indignation in Bulgaria, as well as here in the U.S. Several organizations in Sofia, recipients of this letter, made public declarations regarding the unacceptability of the act. We share and support their position fully. We also see that the award to Dianko Markov contradicts the commitments of Bulgaria to the United Nations with the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1947, especially in its Part II, article 4. They include the unacceptability of any acts of heroization of people with pro-Nazi past who continue to adhere to Nazi beliefs, as is the case of Dianko Markov.

We address you as the Representative of Bulgaria to the UN, with a request for response:

  • How do you perceive the act of government award to Dianko Markov in relation to the long-term contractual commitments of the country to the UN?
  • Are you going to take steps to discuss the case and its implications for the conditions to the UN membership of Bulgaria with the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense, Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister?
  • Are you going to inform us about the results of your discussions? Are you going to make a public statement on the case?

We will share your answer with all recipients of this letter.

– Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends (BDF) – New York

Cc: Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister, Republic of Bulgaria; Ekaterina Zaharieva, Foreign Minister, Republic of Bulgaria; Tihomir Stoychev, Ambassador of Bulgaria to the U.S.

Cc: B’nai B’rith Bulgaria, Sofia; Organization of Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”, Sofia; Bulgarian Association of Holocaust Survivors and Their Children; Bulgarian Antifascist Union, Sofia

 Cc: B’nai B’rith, Europe and U.S.; World Jewish Congress, New York; European Jewish Congress, Brussels; Anti-Defamation League (ADL), New York; Holocaust Museum, Washington DC.

 

 

Send Open Letter to Bulgarian Minister of Justice and Prime Minister!

To: Tsetska Tsacheva, Minister of Justice of Bulgaria, priemna@justice.government.bg

Cc: Boiko Borissiov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, gis@government.bg

Re: Jock Palfreeman and Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association

Dear Minister Tsacheva,

We are addressing you in your capacity as head of the Ministry of Justice and in the hope that you would use your authority to advance a cause we believe will benefit individuals, the Bulgarian society at large and the reputation of Bulgaria as a member of the modern European family of countries.

At the core of our request is the concept of rehabilitation. We will speak about an individual and an organization as their case lies at the center of a legal concept that guides the growing tendency in the EU justice system. Rehabilitation as a main objective is recognized by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, which you chaired this year (January – June, 2018) within the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of Europe. Rehabilitation is also a guiding principle for the EU Judicial Network, in which you were involved in a leadership position within the same period and mandate.

The case in question: Jock Palfreeman, age 31, Australian national, currently an inmate in Sofia Prison, found guilty of murder through a highly controversial trial, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. These details, we are sure, are well known to you, so we mention them here simply as background information. We are aware of the long-term problems in Bulgarian prisons, and we acknowledge your courage to undertake the leadership of the Ministry of Justice responsible for the prison system. We believe you are doing your best to improve and advance that system.

At the same time, Jock Palfreeman, a foreign prisoner, continues to be in a substandard penal unit, part of a system often described as collapsed and unfit for purpose, ridden by corruption, and highly resistant to change. However, in the midst of what would have been almost non-survivable environment for most people, Palfreeman has used his prison time to a highly productive end, and for benefit of others – in essence fulfilling a public duty. He established the non-government organization Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, which under his leadership has become an effective instrument in educating and promoting prisoners’ rights.

Minister Tsacheva, you are probably wondering why we are writing to you about an organization that might be considered by some an adversary of the state. The reason is that we believe (perhaps naively, but genuinely) that the Minister of Justice could contribute to what essentially is one of the ambitions of the Bulgarian criminal justice systems, and a goal for the EU justice system, which somehow overlays the activity of the organization led by Palfreeman. Yes, we are talking about one of the end goals of punishment – rehabilitation. The Bulgarian government just signed in May 2018 a multi-million euro contract with the Norwegian Financial Mechanism precisely for the advancement of rehabilitation, through the construction of a large prisoners’ education center.

In addition to the importance of legal theory, in practical terms – Bulgarian prison has long been known nationally and internationally as a place merely designed for retribution, isolation and humiliation. A place to break a person, but not to make a future law-abiding citizen. A place of terror that is only mitigated by bribery. A place that completes the curve of a vicious circle: crime, sentencing, imprisonment, crime, sentencing, imprisonment – over and over, to huge expense of the legal and criminal justice systems, incurring extortionate societal cost in the process.

Rehabilitation is the only way to break the cycle – where through education and finding purpose in life a former prisoner can re-enter society as an individual aware of their own self-worth rather than a broken down human wreck with little regard for their and anybody else’s existence. In that respect, as much as some people would obviously loath to be made aware of this, the organization chaired by Palfreeman fulfills a vital, long-reaching purpose that ultimately would bring clear social benefits. Any person who leaves prison as a more educated, more qualified and more aware citizen, leaves it better equipped for life afterwards. Rehabilitation is the key to fitting back in. Of generally fitting in, and breaking the predictably destructive trajectory of re-offending, re-sentencing, re-imprisonment.

Jock Palfreeman has paid a price for his activity in securing prisoners’ rights – he has been beaten by guards, his privileges have been suspended, he has been sanctioned and reprimanded by the prison authorities. He continues to be a target for the prison administration in their quest to limit the legitimate scope of the organization. We believe an intervention by the Minister whose mandate includes the governance of the penal administration system will bring about elimination of this oppressive and obstructive environment and a more modern approach in dealing with these issues.

Jock Palfreeman’s case has received national and international attention and has generated many reactions. One of the most graphic coverage belongs to Charlie Hebdo, the French newspaper famed for its uncompromising satirical stance on topical issues. A cartoon drawn in 2010 by Tignous, one of the cartoonists later murdered in the attack on the newspaper in 2015, depicts menacing troll-like, thug figure with contorted facial features, with a sign that reads “Bulgaria is in Europe”. The caricature accompanies the Charlie Hebdo article on the case of Jock Palfreeman, titled “Midnight Express in Sofia” – a dark reference to the 1978 film telling the real-life story of a young American prisoner enduring years of horrific abuse in a barbarian Turkish prison. Look closely at this frightening image – there is something eerily familiar there. Something reminiscent of Beshkov’s most famous work “Bai Ganyo murders his creator” (1947), referring to Aleko’s destiny in 1897. Same thug figure, same feeling of menace and ugliness, same deep sarcasm, despite the geographical amplitude and the de­cades elapsed between the creation of the two images.

In many ways Bulgaria has managed to make a break from its past tragedies. The country has achieved much in recent years as part of the European community. Bulgarian students and workers abroad succeed in promoting a fresh, modern vision of the country as a force for good on the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

We believe the reform of the justice system will contribute tremendously to consolidation of this image, and we put our trust in your abilities and good will to facilitate this process – beginning with stopping Deputy Minister Prodanov from directly attacking Jock Palfreeman and the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, and moving on to establish a fair and fear-free environment for their activities.

– Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends (BDF), UK chapter photo

 

 

BDF joins 2018 International Day of Solidarity with antifascist prisoner in Bulgaria Jock Palfreeman and BPRA

July 25th, 2018 – International day of solidarity with Jock Palfreeman and Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association (BPRA). For more information, call: phone (US) 917-921-1453, Deliana Simeonova, or email: info@bdfonline.org.

photo JP

Jock Palfreeman, Australian, serves a sentence in Bulgaria for defending two Roma/Gypsy men from an attack by a large group of young, violent, racist, neo-nazi criminals. While in prison, Jock Palfreeman created the first in the history of Bulgaria union for the representation of rights of inmates, current and former. Because of his activism, and the successes of BPRA in the defense of human rights, and the fact that they are a strong voice against what constitutes the major problem of Bulgaria – corruption, the Bulgarian government has subjected Jock Palfreeman to physical violence, psychological torture and unlawful punishments. They have inflicted the same on current and future members of BPRA. Their assaults, not only utterly outside the law, have been outright sadistic, for many years now.

At this moment, the Bulgarian government’s unlawful, sadistic assaults on Jock Palfreeman and BPRA are at a height, with declared intent for continuation in the next two years. This is happening in the context of pretenses on part of the Bulgarian government for commitment to the European Union principles of “rehabilitation” in prison. And in the context of multi-million euro revenues, coming soon to the Bulgarian government from European sources, for the purposes of prison rehabilitation.

Jock Palfreeman acted and continues to act to protect our communities from violent racist, neo-nazi forces who kill and beat, torment and assault people, with growing license – in Bulgaria and all over the world. BPRA leads the way in Bulgaria, Europe and the world as a community guard against violence, a defender of the Rule-of-Law, and a fighter against corruption. Other people get paid salaries for this kind of work, and other organizations get grants for it. Jock Palfreeman and BPRA do not, but they still do the work with greatest commitment.

If you can’t join the July 25th International Day of Solidarity, please sign the petition – your signature matters:
https://www.change.org/p/bulgarian-minister-of-justice-stop…

And/or, send an Open Letter to the Bulgarian government. Download it here: https://bdfonline.org/campaigns-3/

No pasarán! Hasta la victoria siempre!

Open Letter to Tsetska Tsacheva, Minister of Justice of Bulgaria

Re: Jock Palfreeman and the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association

cc: Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria

From: Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends (BDF)- UK, July 17, 2018

English text: Open Letter, 2 pages, ENG       Bulgarian text: Open Letter, 2 pages, BG

Join the Open Letter! Send it by post or e-mail to:

  • Tsetska Tsacheva, Minister of Justice, Slavyanska Street #1, Sofia 1000, Bulgaria

e-mail: priemna@justice.government.bg

  • Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister, Council of Ministers, Dondukov Blvd #1, Sofia 1594

e-mail: gis@government.bg

 

Campaigns

BDF is currently working on a campaign in support and solidarity with Bulgarian Prisoners’ Associations, its founder Jock Palfreeman, and present and future members of the association. We are aware and highly concerned about ongoing repressions of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, the only union of prisoners in Bulgaria. We demand that Bulgarian Justice Minister Tsacheva intervenes to end the repressions, in all their forms, and to repeal the legally unsound punitive disciplinary measures against Jock Palfreeman, the organization’s founder.” 

Please, sign the petition. And share with others.