Bulgarian prisoner goes on a hunger strike for education rights, 2013

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Time Period:  
13 January
12 February
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Sofia, Bulgraria
Location Description: 
In a prison in the capital of Bulgaria
To continue to study at a university while in prison.

On 28 December 2007, Australian Jock Palfreeman was in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria, with some friends when he witnessed a young man being attacked by what he believed were football hooligans. Palfreeman chose to help the man, and suddenly found himself fighting a few men after they turned on him. Jock and two attackers fought, and when the dust settled, one of the attackers was fatally wounded and the other was severely wounded.

Police arrived on the scene and took Palfreeman into custody, questioned him, and put him into detention. After a lengthy trial process, Bulgarian courts found Palfreeman guilty of murder, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison in Bulgaria’s federal prison located in Sofia.

A self-described anti-fascist, Palfreeman was a student before his sentence, and sought to continue his studies from inside the prison in Bulgaria. However, due to his involvement in the Bulgarian Prisoner’s Association, Palfreeman was denied access to education in prison.

Seeking to challenge the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice, Palfreeman decided to go on a hunger strike on 13 January 2013, until his demands were met. Palfreeman believed he should be able to continue his studies, regardless of whether or not he was in prison. With Palfreeman’s help, his friends and family back home in Australia organized a website that included a link to a mass petition. People around the world could sign this petition and send to Diana Kovacheva, the Bulgarian justice minister, calling on her to grant Palfreeman’s demand of continuing his education.

On 12 February 2013, Palfreeman ended his hunger strike when he received a response from a Bulgarian prison coordinator. The coordinator responded that while in Bulgarian prison, Palfreeman was only allowed to study in a university in Bulgaria. However, Bulgarian prisons would not accept a student who was in prison, so he was not permitted to continue his studies.

Palfreeman lost a total of 20 kilograms from his month-long hunger strike, but was denied access to education while in detention in Sofia.

Research Notes
325.nostate. 2013. 27 April 2013 <http://325.nostate.net/?p=7259>.

FREE JOCK. 2013. 27 April 2013 <http://www.freejock.com/>.

Malatesta's Blog. 14 February 2013. 28 April 2013 <http://malatesta32.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/a-letter-fromjock-palfreeman-anti-fascist-prisoner-on-hunger-strike/>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
John Pontillo, 28/04/2013