After the Sofia Court of Appeal confirmed the 20-year jail sentence for Jock Palfreeman, the Australian earlier found guilty of the 2007 murder of Andrei Monov, Palfreeman's family and supporters vowed to pursue the case a further step to Bulgaria’s highest appeal court – and if losing in that court, to approach the European Court of Human Rights.
The Sofia Court of Appeal’s ruling on February 21, which also confirmed the order for Palfreeman to pay damages of 400 000 leva to the Monov family, as well as court costs, followed dissatisfaction by both sides.
The family of the murdered man held that the punishment meted out to Palfreeman for stabbing Monov to death was too lenient, and they wanted it increased to life imprisonment. They were supported in this by Anton Zahariev, who was injured in the same incident, and his family. Palfreeman has been ordered to pay 50 000 leva compensation to Zahariev.
The Palfreeman camp insist that he had acted to intervene when a large group of youths were attacking two Roma men. Palfreeman has said that he took out the knife as a deterrent, in an act of self-defence and has no memory of using it. His supporters include those who describe the incident as an "anti-racist" act and seek to portray Sofia as infested with skinhead neo-Nazis.
Those backing Palfreeman say that vital evidence, such as security camera recordings, has gone missing and they say that some witnesses have deliberately changed their evidence since proceedings began.
Australian media reports quoted Palfreeman’s father Simon as saying of the Sofia Court of Appeal ruling, "it is just incredible that they can issue verdicts which are so contrary to the evidence without making any attempt to explain how they can just ignore very clear evidence that Jock got caught up in the middle of a very nasty gang attack and was obviously acting in self-defence".
The court of appeal upheld the earlier court’s finding rejecting Jock Palfreeman’s allegation that he had acted only after being assaulted with rocks and pieces of paving, finding that events had been the other way around. The court found that Palfreeman’s claims about his injuries were not supported by records of a medical examination of him after the incident.
The court said that Jock Palfreeman had been "ready to attack anyone who stood in his way" and better work by prosecutors could have made it possible for him to be charged with the attempted murder of other members of the group.
Prosecutors had argued that Palfreeman’s military training, including in knife-fighting, gave him an advantage in the incident.
Palfreeman’s family said that they would take the matter to the Supreme Court of Cassation. This court may overturn the verdict and sentence if it is presented with new evidence or if it is persuaded that there have been serious procedural irregularities in earlier stages of the court process.
The family has complained that the Supreme Court of Appeal "ignored" evidence produced by their side at hearings in the Sofia Court of Appeal.
Krassimir Kanev of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee has backed the family, saying that the court was incorrect to find that the killing was deliberate.
Simeon Saxe-Coburg and his spouse Margarita opened a new heating and insulation system at the Tsar Ferdinand Hospital for Pulmonary Diseases in Iskrets, a project implemented thanks to the Embassy of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Sofia and the Nando Peretti Foundation.
According to the law's provisions, the commission will have the power to investigate individuals without prior notification and would not require a criminal conviction in order to launch an investigation.
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