SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — An Australian man who has spent 11 years in Bulgarian custody over a fatally stabbing was released from immigration detention Tuesday after a court unexpectedly ordered him paroled.
Jock Palfreeman must remain in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, and report to local police weekly, immigration department director Nikola Nikolov said. The country’s top prosecutor has appealed the court ruling that got Palfreeman out of prison last month. Palfreeman’s Australian passport was taken to make sure he didn’t leave the country, Nikolov said.
Speaking outside the immigration detention center where he was transferred since leaving prison, Palfreeman said he wouldn’t try to leave Bulgaria.
“I am not afraid because I believe that the Bulgarian people will protect me like they have done over the past 12 years,” he said. “Bulgarians have always helped me, not Australians.”
Palfreeman was found guilty of stabbing a Bulgarian student to death during a 2007 Sofia bar brawl and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Wednesday she was concerned that Palfreeman was being prevented from leaving Bulgaria.
“We call on the Bulgarian government to ensure Mr. Palfreeman receives due process, consistent with Bulgarian law,” Payne said in the Australian capital, Canberra.
“Australia has provided and will continue to provide everything required to assist Mr. Palfreeman’s departure from Bulgaria as soon as possible,” she added.
His father, Simon Palfreeman, spoke to his son briefly overnight Australian time.
“He’s very happy to be out of detention but I think still very stressed and tired about what’s happening,” the father told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Simon Palfreeman described the process to date as an “absolute roller coaster.”
“In 12 years, I’m not confident about anything with regards to the Bulgarian judicial system,” the father said.
“The Bulgarians are putting out roadblocks — illegal roadblocks — at every single turn,” he added.
A previous version of this story was corrected to show Palfreeman must report to a local police station once a week, not every day.