Imprisonment over the conviction time
There have been numerous calls for some information to escape the prison walls of Sofia Central and I hope I can appease these requests for information although I am not sure what people will find interesting.
Daily I am continuing my university degree via correspondence that was guaranteed after a 30 day hunger strike by the Ministry of Justice in May 2013. My marks are good and steady despite the lack of internet and source material.
When I am not working on my university degree I am usually helping other prisoners with one problem or another. Recently a young Iranian convicted to 1.5 years prison for illegal immigration has had 3 months of his served time lost by the court authorities. The process to find these missing days held in remand and have them calculated as time served is long and arduous simply due to the sluggish nature of the Bulgarian courts and the inexperience of the state bureaucracy. I was told by the prison authorities (who of course refused to help the Iranian themselves) that I should write to the remand prison to have an account of his time served pre trial written up. I argued that it was not the responsibility of the remand prison to calculate time served and I argued that only a court could calculate time served. In the end to kill 2 birds I wrote to both the remand prison and the court asking them to calculate the time served for the young Iranian. 2 months later the remand prison replied that they would not even tell us how many days the Iranian had been held in their prison let alone help with calculating time served. So I was right and the prison authorities were wrong, however the situation is still not resolved as it’s almost 3 months and despite the 2 month reply limit for all requests in Bulgaria the court has still not replied in regards to the matter of the missing 3 months of served time.
I said to the Iranian, “you’re lucky you have 1.5 years and you’re at the beginning of your sentence because you see it took 2 months just to have a rejection letter sent by the remand prison and 3 months and still no reply from the court”. 4 months served in the prison prior to me being aware of the situation, plus the 3 months waiting for the court to not reply and the 3 months in question served in pre trial remand, he now has 10 months served of his 18 month sentence.
What’s my point? My point is that by the time the Bulgarian court gets into gear he could have finished his entire sentence and then some. This is a common enough occurrence in Bulgarian prisons, especially those sentenced under 5 years imprisonment. Over 6 years and the courts seem capable to handle the processing of convicts and their release dates, but under 5 years, especially those with 1-3 year sentences and possible there isn’t a single prisoner who is released when they should be.
Of course as is the bureaucratic way in Bulgaria, ‘when in doubt the prisoner can do without’ meaning that if there is any doubt about anything it is better to violate the rights of the prisoner and have the problem sorted out later rather then guarantee the rights of the prisoner and possible make a bureaucratic error. This means the prison is more then happy to hold prisoners months over their release date as that is preferable to the possibility that a prisoner could be released early.
My days are concerned with such matters; there are just too many prisoners to help. As this is the case I wanted to start with the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association a legal aid umbrella, where the Association would pay lawyers to defend prisoners post conviction. In Bulgaria once you’re convicted there is little to no free legal help or defence. This means that prisoners are at the mercy of the prison administration that more often then not orders punishments to prisoners arbitrarily according to the whims of the psychologically unstable prison administration. Although many of these orders decreed by the prison administration can be overturned in court, the vast percentage of prisoners are illiterate and even more don’t understand the laws at all.
Legal aid and bank account
Without a legal aid program prisoners are left defenceless against illegal orders given by the prison administration. The idea is to establish good relationships between the Association and some sympathetic lawyers who would represent prisoners for reasonable rates on the understanding that clients would be constant and also with experienced prisoners in the Association sorting through the simple cases most of the riff raff will have already been sorted before the lawyer is even involved so as to minimize the work load.
My grandeur plan, which was to start with a small budget of 3600€ a year (estimated between 144 and 72 prisoners represented a year) which we have been working on for I think about 2 years now has finally overcome the hurdle of opening a bank account. It was EXTREMLY difficult to open a bank account but as of June 2014 a lawyer for the Association was able to open an account after going to over 7 banks! All of which flat out rejected to even consider opening a bank account for the Association.
Our account information is:
Bulgarian Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Association (in notes)
All donations will be ecstatically received!!! No amount too small!! It will all add up and be put to good use, at the moment the money will be used to defend prisoners’ rights especially in regards to appealing illegal orders given by the prison administrations.
October 17th 2013
The “check” into the guards collective punishment of mass assault on the 17th October 2013 was concluded by the Regional Prosecutor as not having enough evidence with which to start an investigation.. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee helped to appeal the decision of the prosecutor, which by order of the Sofia City Prosecutors’ office was granted and the “check” was returned back to the beginning. Now I say “check” as it’s not an investigation, the legal process of “checking” carries with it very few if any rights for the victim or guidelines established by law as to what an investigator can and can’t do. In typical form the second “check” is being carried out by the same investigator who conducted the first “check” whose conclusion was overturned. If it was an investigation, the process would have to be undertaken a second time by a new investigator, but as it is only the repeat of a “check” there is no such stipulation that the new “check” be carried out by a new investigator.
There is no news on the transfer front although the social workers of the prison recommend me for good behaviour citations the Director of the prison Peter Krestev refuses to signoff on the recommendations of his social workers. So as the Director of Sofia Central Prison is constantly passing on false information to the Head Prosecutors office it is hard to differentiate between the political pressures asserted by the government over the Head Prosecutor Tsatsarov and the false information he officially basing his decisions on supplied by the Director of Sofia Central Prison.
Please write letters to the Head Prosecutor requesting that he allow a transfer to happen, as serving my prison time in an Australian prison does not inhibit the goals of the conviction, but on the contrary it is a proven fact that goals of convictions are unlikely to be met by foreigners serving their convictions in foreign prisons and societies.
Head Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov
Many thanks to those who have organised or helped to organise solidarity actions and fund raising activities for both myself and the Association. As usual I would like to thank my father and step mother for their constant support over the rough ocean waves of ups and downs. I don’t say it enough (or at all) but I love you very much and I am grateful for your constant support. A special thankyou to Brighton ABC who has supported me for well over 6 years now, they have been busy with their own problems but have always made time to help me.
- To Panagiotis Argyros, DamianoBolano and Gerasimos Tsakalos in Greek prison, may their sacrifices never be forgotten and their resistance echo through time and may the Greek capitalists always look over their shoulders.
- To Thomas Mayer-Falk who has finished his conviction in Germany and is now being held post sentence under the monstrous “preventive detention” order, where he is essentially imprisoned for his anti capitalist beliefs not due to any actual crime that he has committed
- To Joel and Dennis Thelning who were convicted for defending an anti-fascist demonstration in Sweden and received outrageously high prison sentence
Chairman, Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association