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.


Case of Bulgarian government award to Dianko Markov, a Nazi



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

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,

Cc: Boiko Borissiov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria,

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:

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:…

And/or, send an Open Letter to the Bulgarian government. Download it here:

No pasarán! Hasta la victoria siempre!