A composite image of CCTV stills from the night Jock Palfreeman stabbed a Bulgarian man in Sofia, 2007. (Supplied)
Newly-released footage of the 2007 fight in which Jock Palfreeman stabbed and killed a Bulgarian man in Sofia has been published for the first time, which Palfreeman says supports his long-standing claim he had acted in self-defence.
The 32-year-old Sydneysider was found guilty of murder in 2009 and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
After serving more than 11 years in a Sofia prison, a court granted him parole two weeks ago.
But he has been held in an immigration detention facility ever since, pending a highly irregular appeal by Bulgaria’s powerful prosecutor-general.
Now, from his cell in the Busmantsi Detention Centre, Palfreeman has told the ABC the video is proof of his innocence.
“When I finally got to watch it on a big screen on a high quality monitor my feeling was of vindication,” he said.
Mr Palfreeman has been held at Busmantsi Detention Centre since Friday. (ABC News: Tim Stevens)
Palfreeman revealed his legal team had been denied a copy of the CCTV footage until earlier this year.
He said he had been allowed to watch the vision only once, and that was in court during the trial.
“They played the video on a very small laptop, and they played it one time and they said everybody can watch it, and so I was in handcuffs and chains and everyone is around me, and we didn’t have an opportunity to pause, to rewind, to fast forward, to zoom in,” he said.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to compare the men in the video to their photos or to the clothes they wore, so we had absolutely no access to this video until this year.”
Footage is vindicating, Palfreeman says
Palfreeman’s lawyer, Kalin Angelov, released the footage in a bid to show his client is not the monster he is currently being portrayed as by those attempting to have him returned to prison.
The footage shows a group of men, which included the 20-year-old stabbing victim, Andrei Monov, chasing at least one, and possibly two men near St Nedelya Square in the centre of downtown Sofia.
These men, according to Palfreeman, were Roma Gypsies being abused and harassed by the group who had been drinking heavily.
Palfreeman has always said it was when he tried to intervene to protect them that he became involved in the scuffle.
He told the court that he pulled out a pocketknife in an attempt to frighten the men away, before Mr Monov was stabbed in the side of his chest.
The newly-released CCTV appears to show the men hurling objects at Palfreeman, knocking him to the ground, and then surrounding him when he tries to run away.
Palfreeman told the ABC the mere fact the altercation can be seen on the footage should have been enough to lead the courts to a very different conclusion.
“What I’m convicted for is that I was just waiting in the dark shadows, waiting for a group of people to walk past, a random group of people, and I jumped out and tried to kill everybody,” he said.
“The prosecution in the court said that there was no violence … and of course to top it all off there was no motivation for my random attack.
“And so after seeing the video it’s clear that there is violence minutes before Andrei Monov dies, and under Bulgarian law the convictions for a death during violence are substantially lower.”
Unprecedented move to keep Palfreeman behind bars
Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov filed a motion at the Supreme Court of Cassation to have Palfreeman’s parole revoked and his parole application reopened.
This is unprecedented.
Under Bulgarian law, decisions of the court of appeal, which granted Palfreeman his freedom, cannot be further reviewed.
Originally slated for October 23, the hearing has been brought forward to October 7 amid a febrile law and order debate in the local media.
The hearing will now take place on October 7 instead of October 23. (ABC News: Belinda Hawkins)
Far-right parties in Bulgaria have used Palfreeman’s parole decision as a campaign tool in the current municipal elections.
The court released a statement explaining the change of date which said it had taken “into consideration the exceptional public reaction to this case, as well as the circulating media information that this pending hearing is preventing Jock Palfreeman from travelling”.
But Palfreeman is phlegmatic about his chances.
“Even though a three-judge panel ruled that I wasn’t a threat to society and I should be released and free and even though on paper I’m technically free even though I’m in prison, anything can happen in Bulgaria.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the AM program Australia was “making every effort on the ground to secure his return to Australia”.
“I am concerned as well that there may be a range of non-legal considerations [at play],” she said.
“I want to be sure that the law is being applied consistently and appropriately and that he is dealt with according to Bulgarian law, given [the] parole decision, then it is our view that he should be released and we should be able to make arrangements for that to happen.”
Palfreeman said he was confident that should the court decide to revoke his parole, “basically I’m going to be in prison for the rest of my sentence, which is of course what they want”.
“So right now, if I have to pack my bags up and go back to prison, basically what’s happened in the past 11 or 12 days has completely proved the lack of professionalism, the corruption, the backwardness, the lack of the rule of law, the political pressure, the political games.” he said.
‘We have held an innocent man’
Palfreeman’s lawyer says the CCTV backs up the Australian’s claims that he was acting in self-defence and defence of another when he drew his knife.
Earlier this year he received a copy of CCTV footage of the 2007 incident that he had not previously seen.
“A lot of people ask me how can I defend a ‘cold-blooded killer’ like Palfreeman,” Kalin Angelov wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.
“Ever since I watched [the video] … it is without a doubt … that we have held an innocent man imprisoned.”
The president of Bulgaria’s most prominent human rights organisation, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, agrees.
“The courts failed to analyse properly the situation of self-defence,” Dr Krassimir Kanev said.
“Whether it was legitimate or excessive self-defence should have been in the centre of the court’s analysis … For sure, it was not an intentional killing deserving a 20-year prison sentence.”
Mr Angelov wants the footage finally to be taken seriously.
‘What drives me is to find the truth,” he said.