SOFIA, Bulgaria -- An Australian man released after serving 11 years in a Bulgarian prison over a fatal stabbing is free to return home after the country’s highest court refused to send him back to prison.
But Jock Palfreeman said on Friday he would be arrested if he attempted to leave Bulgaria despite his win in the Supreme Court of Cassation.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that the government will arrest me if I try to leave the country,” Palfreeman told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The court on Thursday rejected a petition by the country’s former chief prosecutor to revoke parole a lower court had granted Palfreeman. The decision cannot be appealed.
“The request for reopening of the case is inadmissible and should be dismissed and the proceedings terminated,” the court said in a statement.
Palfreeman, 33, was convicted of fatally stabbing a Bulgarian student during a 2007 brawl. Last September, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel unexpectedly ordered him freed 11 years into his 20-year prison sentence.
Chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov — who has since retired — petitioned the Supreme Court of Cassation to suspend Palfreeman’s parole and review the panel’s ruling, saying that two of the judges faced a conflict of interest.
Palfreeman's father Simon Palfreeman said be visited his son in January before the coronavirus pandemic and found him living in fear of arrest in a village outside Sofia.
The father said the court decision had cleared “the single biggest issue” for his son, but the Bulgarian government was continuing to enforce an “illegal travel ban.”
“I won’t believe Jock is actually coming home until he’s on the plane and actually has left Bulgaria,” Simon Palfreeman said from the Australian city of Newcastle.