Monday, February 21, 2011

Palfreeman loses Bulgaria jail appeal

Palfreeman loses Bulgaria jail appeal

A young Australian sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder of a Bulgarian student lost his appeal against both the verdict and the sentence on Monday, with the Sofia appeals court upholding his initial sentence.

Jock Palfreeman, 24, was sentenced in December 2009 for stabbing to death 20-year-old Bulgarian student Andrey Monov and wounding another man in a drunken street brawl in Sofia.

After he was found guilty, Palfreeman filed an appeal, hoping the court might overturn or at least lower his jail term.

On Monday the Sofia Court of Appeal upheld the decision by the Sofia City Court which found Palfreeman guilty of murder with hooliganism.

Sydneysider Palfreeman has always claimed that early in the morning of December 28, 2007 he went to the aid of two Roma whom he says were being attacked by a group of violent and drunk young men.

He claimed that when the attack turned on him, he brought out a knife and began waiving it around to keep the attackers at bay.

The prosecution and civil claimants argued Palfreeman ran into a group of 15 to 20 young people with the sole intention of killing as many as he could.

Neutral witnesses supported much of Palfreeman's version of events.

The family of the dead man, Andrei Monov, the injured man Antoan Zahariev and the prosecution appealed the original sentence claiming it was too lenient.

They demanded life without parole, claiming Palfreeman would be a risk to society if released.

However the prosecution reduced its claim to life when the appeal began in November last year.

The appeal heard that three police and two of the gang members supported elements of Palfreeman's version of events in their police statements given soon after the incident, but changed that when they gave evidence in the first trial.

The detail in the police statements was upheld in the appeal hearings under cross examination.

In its reasons for the verdict, the appeal panel said that it supported the factual evidence as described by the lower instance court.

A response from Bulgaria's largest human rights group, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, has been swift.

"Given the evidence on the attack by the group against the two Roma that the court was now able to hear, upholding the conviction as an intentional murder is unjust," said Krassimir Kanev, who came under attack by the father of the dead man in his summary to the Appeal Court for his criticism of the prosecution case.

It is expected that both the defendant and the civil claimants will lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court of Cessation within 14 days.

Belinda Hawkins is currently writing a book about the Palfreeman case.