Guards`Protest

From the begging of May the guards in Bulgarian prisons and arrests (remand prisons) have been protesting a change to their work conditions. Previously they worked 24 hour shifts, then they had 3 days off, now they must work 12 hour shifts with 24 hours off. A 24 hour shift might sound like too much work and the reduction to a 12 hour shift would probably appear to most people as an improvement in work place conditions, however the guards a protesting and planning a national protest in Sofia on the 27th July 2013. So why are the guards and the guards’ union protesting what most people would see as an improvement to work place conditions? Because in practice guards don’t actually work for the entire 24 hour shift, from 08:30 to 20:00 everyday the guards have the majority of their work, after 20:00 all the cells in the prison are locked, apart from the occasional medical emergency, there is nothing for the guards to do from 20:00 until the doors open again the next day at 06:30. This means that for about 10 hours of their previous 24 hour shift they were sleeping, although they are not legally allowed to, the reality is that all the guards fall asleep very soon after 20:30, only waking up when the phone rings or prisoners call for a doctor. The 24 hour shift system had other perks too, previously with 1 day on 3 days off, guards could work second jobs. Despite this being illegal for prison guards and police to have second private employment, it is common practice and the 1 day on 3 days off shift rotation, allowed the guards to work roughly 27 days a month for illegal cash jobs. This means they had the best of two worlds; they received two wages and also accumulated the coveted state employee pension. Now with the 12 hours on 24 hours off, it is almost impossible for most guards to hold down a second job. It also means that in practice the guards will actually be working more. Both in regards to actual time spent in prison and also the fact that there will be more day shifts for the guards, meaning less night shifts, meaning less sleeping opportunities for Bulgaria’s finest.

What is the Prisoners’ Association’s stance on the protests?

It was argued over, that is for sure. But a consensus was conceded, that in principle the Prisoners’ Association should show solidarity and support the calls to reform the work conditions of the guards. It was also noted that the prison administrations are the cause of most of our strife, both for prisoners and guards. However after having agreed on supporting calls for work place reform in principle, it was also hotly noted that it was hypocritical of the guards to be complaining about their work conditions when these same conditions are our home conditions. Also it was noted that the guards were being hypocritical expecting solidarity from society when they themselves have and do partake in repressive measures when prisoners protest against institutional failures. Just recently guards confiscated pen and paper from a Syrian who was protesting his detention as an illegal border crosser (refugee). The conclusion of the debate was that the Association could only support the guards’ union if guards were held to the same accountability as prisoners, meaning the same law be applied for them as for us, which at present is not the case. To this day, not a single guard has been convicted for assaulting a prisoner. It would also be necessary for guards not to get involved in the political activities of prisoners in regards to repression of peaceful protests such as hunger strikes and mass petitions.

Can the guards’ protest be reconciled with the ongoing general protests against the current government of Bulgaria?

The general atmosphere of the protests sweeping Bulgaria is anti state-ist. It is not simply against the current government. Bulgarians are sick and tired of the entrenched corruption and cronyism that defines the Bulgarian state. The guards being part of that state are just as guilty as all the other corrupt and inept government organs. The guards complain of unsanitary work conditions, however those same unsanitary work conditions are our homes. If the prisons are too dirty for guards, then that goes to show how much worse it is for those of us who actually live 24hours a day here, us the prisoners. The guards on television complained that they must search prisoners’ without gloves and that many prisoners have transmittable diseases, however what was not mentioned in a typically arrogant way, was that guards are searching multiple prisoners without changing gloves per prisoner per search. Sometimes guards wear the same gloves all day and used to search over 100’s of prisoners. In this way the guards are protected, but they are physically transmitting disease between the prisoner populations. Prisoners who demand that they be searched with clean gloves are harassed and in some cases beaten for “arrogance”. Actually the guards are notorious for being less hygienic then the prisoners themselves, many do not have basic hygienic training, many guards do not wash their hands after using the toilet and constantly walk around the prison spitting, even in the corridors and cells where prisoners live. We believe it is hypocritical that they are crying foul of the government when they are in fact the enforcers of the corrupt practices of the same government, state and justice system. So no, the guards’ protest can not be reconciled with the ongoing general protests against the current government and Bulgarian state as they are not the victims of the state, they are the state’s victimizers. The guards are part of problem and have offered nothing constructive to institutional reforms. The guards protesting should be likened to politicians protesting that they don’t want to have to sit in parliament every hearing, despite the fact that they are paid exactly for that.

Reactionaries?

It should be noted, that the governments change in the guards shifts is actually in line with recommendations for prison institution reform. In this regard, the guards’ decision to protest and oppose the changes can be seen as either workers’ rights or reactionary policies of a corrupt prison industry. In reality the guards and prison workers are afforded many privileges, and it can be said that the biggest opposition to prison institutional reform is the institution itself. The bureaucrats and the guards of the local prisons, remand prisons and the national prison body do not want reform policies introduced as the laws are such that the guards and staff can manipulate them in anyway they see fit at the time in question. Frequently the same law is applied in multiple different ways as the laws are so subjective. Really, the guards’ stance is a reactionary one in opposition to state institutional reforms. It is natural for those whom profit from the chaos of such a disorganised country to oppose reforms. Ironically the guards’ 2 biggest objections are both due to illegal practices, that of working a double cash job and that of sleeping on the job, which must be said results in lengthy delays when prisoners are in need of immediate medical attention after 20:30 at night. Guards have to be woken up by prisoners shouting sometimes up to 100 metres away and in a different block of the prison. Reaction time to medical problems normally is about 20 minutes but can be over 30 minutes.

Conclusion

The change to the shift rotation of prison guards will be a positive change for prisoner safety especially during the nights as guards will be less likely to be sleeping if they have not worked the previous day. The government should make accountability its first priority, so as to reduce human rights violations committed by guards. The free reign that has been afforded Bulgaria’s state workers has to stop and transparency needs to be implemented. The guards protesting are like teething babies who are denied their mothers milk and instead are given solid foods to eat. It’s time for the guards to grow up and stop resisting the reforms of the Bulgarian state that do not go far enough but are reforms none the less.

Chairman of the Association

Jock Palfreeman

After the Elections in Bulgaria

The Association sent out invitations to political parties in the lead up to the elections which were on the 12/May/2013. However not a single party responded with their policies for prison and Justice institutional reforms. There could be many reasons why political parties ignored our requests for information about their Justice reform policies. However one reason favoured over others is that all Bulgarian political parties are afraid to be seen as “helping prisoners” or the party being labelled “the prisoners’ party”. The extreme social stigma surrounding those arrested does the rest. However old fashioned and childish this seems it is most likely the reality in Bulgarian politics. Unfortunately what this lack of political interest for prison and Justice reform means is that it seems that there isn’t any party that the several thousands of prisoners (eligible to vote) can vote for that will represent them. What IS clear to almost all prisoners is that the last 4 years have seen a massive rise in violations and crimes committed by the Justice institutions. Violations and crimes range from illegal convictions by courts, discriminatory and persecutory punishments by prison administrations and guards assaulting prisoners. All of which have drastically increased in number, breadth and depth, under the GERB party’s government headed by Boiko Borrisov. Ironically there hasn’t been a government so full of “alleged” criminals since 1989 in Bulgaria. Which has left many prisoners in shock at the blatantly arbitrary application of the law. The old saying rings true for the prisoner in Bulgaria “one law for them, another for us”.

 

Amongst other things, 3 major violations stand out. In December 2012 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that the then “Secretary General of the Ministry”, General Boiko Borrisov ordered police to shoot rockets at a house where Mr Todor Dimov Todorov was hiding with a pistol to hide from serving a 6 month prison sentence. Straight away eyebrows are raised that the state claims a man locked himself in a house with a pistol to avoid a 6 month sentence which in Bulgaria is known as “tourist time”. However the ECHR found that “the use of heavy weapons and explosives, with the attendant risk for human life, cannot be regarded as justified in the circumstances” (see case of Dimov and other v Bulgaria § 78) The ECHR unsurprisingly found that the Bulgarian state has violated the “state’s obligation…. To investigate effectively the circumstances in which Mr Todorov lost his life”.

 

In a nutshell Boiko Borrisov should be charged with the murder of Mr Todorov or at the very lease charged with attempted murder or endangering his life, for personally giving the order to shoot no less then 15 anti tank rockets at Mr Todorov. The other “alleged” crime was ordering police to cease a search on an alcohol factory that was either producing illegal alcohol or undeclared alcohol. The conversation was recorded between the officer in command and Boiko Borrisov. Boiko Borrisov protects the mega wealthy whilst exploding sheep thieves with rockets.

 

The 3rd “alleged” crime was committed by Svetan Svetanov, the GERB number 2 man. Svetan was Boiko’s Vice-Prime Minister AND Minister of Interior (responsible for police). In the few weeks running up to the election the Prosecutors Office released a statement claiming to the effect that there was enough evidence to conclude that Svetan Svetanov has committed a crime. The crime being illegal phone taps, ranging from “business men” to politicians themselves. Unfortunately or maybe conveniently, Svetan Svetanov and Boiko Borrisov can’t even be charged as they have immunity as either members of parliament or candidates in the run up to the elections.

 

As per usual the Bulgarian state shows its colours. If you “steal” 10€ of discarded junk metal to feed you family, you’ll receive a year in prison with subhuman conditions. If you fire 15 anti tank rockets at a sheep thief you can become Prime Minister where your government spies on opposition and the general public en masse. There’s hardly enough time to list GERB’s “achievements” of the past 4 years as they impact on prisoners. But some in brief include:

 

  • Postponing the entering into force of Article 43(3) that guarantees every prisoner a minimum of 4m2 “personal space”. The law was supposed to enter into force in January 2013, but GERB postponed it until 2019! Leaving prisoners with no minimum space requirements. This means that there is still no limit as to how many prisoners can be squeezed into a prison or cell. Needless to say the GERB government saw a massive rise in prison overcrowding over the past 4 years.
  • The GERB government disallowed prisoners to use the costless government internal postal system. This means prisoners without money are not able to send requests or complaints for free to government institutions outside of their respective remand of prison. This is a huge blow to prisoners’ rights to complain, make requests and appeals. Even if a prisoner can afford postage, there is no longer a provided tracking number as previously given with the governmental internal mailing system. Now even if a prisoner buys a stamp there is no way to guarantee that a legal document has or has no been sent or received. This problem can and does have disastrous results for prisoners, for example, when prisoners have a deadline to submit requests, complaints or appeals, a letter without a tracking number could get “lost” and the deadline limit for appeal lapse without anything being received.
  • The GERB government also appointed Peter Krestev as Director of Sofia Central Prison, which for those of you who read this site will know has persistently violated human rights in his misguided sense of omnipotence. To date The Association estimates over 13 cases of human rights violations have been brought against the Bulgarian state in the European Court of Human Rights directly as a result of illegal orders and practices made by Peter Krestev. Unfortunately the tax payer will be punished as per usual, which should as a reminder that those you vote for really have an impact on your wallet. Unfortunately Peter Krestev has been promotes temporarily to National Director of prison, he wasn’t the first choice for the position but all the other candidates refused the position except Peter Krestev. Hopefully for human rights and the tax payer a more suitable National Director will be found soon, one who has been educated on both national Bulgarian law and the European Convention of Human Rights.
  • The GERB government’s response to the increase of asylum seekers entering Bulgaria form the Middle East and Africa was to criminalise them. Prior to the GERB government in 2009 there wasn’t a single asylum seeker in prison. Now there are almost 100, most of which in Sofia Central Prison. Obviously GERB’s solution to the overcrowding of the immigration institutions for asylum seekers was to throw as many as possible illegally into prison. There are no asylum seekers in prison from Mali, Syria, Tamil-land, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia and Kurdish from Turkey, as well as many others. Entering Bulgaria through non-conventional means to seek asylum is not illegal in Bulgaria, on the contrary, all asylum seekers who enter Bulgaria are protected within the Criminal Code itself, according to Article 279(5), which states to the effect “those who enter the country to use their rights of asylum as according to the constitution will not have criminal responsibility”. But with illegal and manipulative practices prosecutors and judges convince them to sign fake “confessions” to then “accept a deal” from the prosecutor that is then rubber stamped by the courts. All of which is written in Bulgarian language, a language that is only spoken in Bulgaria, meaning no asylum seeker knows what their inditement says of the “confession” they’re signing. Recently over 30 asylum seekers in Sofia Central Prison concluded a collective hunger strike. The asylum seekers convicted illegally as “illegal border crossers” are planning another mass protest lat May. Demanding that their illegal convictions are overturned and their rights according to Article 279(5) are finally respected.

 

The end there is no political alternative for the prisoner or his/her family and friends. The right-wing are naturally hostile towards prisoners and the “left-wing” are unnaturally nationalistic, meaning they too are hostile towards prison reform. As a friend said “no politician will reform the prison system, until politicians themselves become prisoners” so we invite Boiko Borrisov and Svetan Svetanov to join us in conviction. Who knows? Maybe they will join The Prisoners’ Association.

 

 

Asylum seekers criminalized by the law in Bulgaria

 Since about mid 2010 Sofia Central Prison has been filling up with asylum seekers, this is as they are entering Bulgaria their rights are not only being ignored but are being purposefully denied by the police, prosecutors’ office and the courts.

According to Article 279(5) of the criminal law asylum seekers are protected from criminal prosecution when crossing the borders without permission. However the criminal justice system in many cases ignores the protected status of asylum seekers who cross the Bulgarian borders. What the prosecutors’ office does is on the rim of legality. Asylum seekers arrested at borders are put into criminal remand prisons and are held as criminals under the charge of Article 279(1) of the criminal law, which is the charge of illegal border crossing. They are almost always left in subhuman conditions that are standard for Bulgarian prisons and especially remand prisons close to borders where asylum seekers are most likely to be arrested and held. A prosecutor will approach that asylum seekers and tell them to the effect that “they are charged with a crime that comes with a maximum sentence of 5 years”, their rights are not explained to them that they are protected in order to claim asylum and they are usually not given access to a lawyer, and when they do get a state lawyer, the state lawyer lies to them to finish the work faster (as is common practice for all state lawyers in Bulgaria). The prosecutor offers them two choices, sign a “deal” (споразумения) which is in effect a confession that the border crossing was a crime. This however is not explained to the asylum seeker. It is explained to them that if they sign this piece of paper they will go free, if not they will get 5 years prison. The inditements are almost never translated into a language the asylum seeker can understand as according to Article 6-3a of the European Convention of Human Rights, this is as the prosecutors office is both lazy and doesn’t want to spend the money on a translation of the inditement. What’s more they are never informed about their rights, i.e. that according to Article 279(5) of the Bulgarian criminal law (HK) “not punished are those who enter the country to use the right to asylum as according to the constitution” “Не се наказва онзи, който влезе в страната, за да се ползува от правото на убежище съгласно с Конституцията.”

 

The asylum seeker in his/her mind has two choices, sign a piece of paper written in a language they don’t understand and go free or stay in prison for 5 years, as these are the choices offered by prosecutors. Usually these deals result in suspended sentences and this is what the prosecutors represent as “going free”. The suspended sentences usually range from 4 months prison to a year in prison; the expiry date for the suspended sentences is roughly 2 years. It’s a no brainer, the paper is signed and it’s all countersigned and stamped as legal by the judge and the asylum seeker is sent on his/her way, usually to an immigrant prison or asylum seeker “camp”, an open hostel type environment.

 

Some asylum seekers have family in Western Europe or they are unable to live in Bulgaria due to lack of employment and lack of social and governmental support that is standard in Bulgaria. For obvious reasons some asylum seekers and refugees choose to leave Bulgaria, even some who want to return to their country of origin but who don’t or can’t wait the prolonged wait for personal identification documents to be made by the Ministry of Immigration. If these people are arrested a second time they are again convicted of illegal border crossing, but also the first suspended sentence come into force in addition with the second sentence.

This means in effect that asylum seekers can end up as convicted criminals. Where they usually will serve between 8months and 1.5years. In prison they are constantly discriminated against as they are said to have “small sentences”. They are rarely allowed to work or study and thus reduce their sentences and for the past 5 years not a single asylum seeker convicted under Article 279(1) and Article 279(2) have been “proposed” by the prison administration for early release. This means that as they have “small sentences” they will in practice serve the entirety of their sentences with no hope of being released early for good behaviour (which is actually part of a more general problem within the prisons and the legislation governing convicted people)

 

During this period in prison, asylum seekers have great difficulties getting money from foreign countries, especially those from war torn countries, for example at the moment Syria and Mali. Most have not spent a lot of time in Bulgaria and therefore do not understand the language or “accepted norms” within the prison system. They are faced with severe discrimination and racism from both the prison staff and Bulgarian prisoners. They also have a hard time understanding that they are convicted criminals and no longer considered asylum seekers. As far as the Association knows, only Bulgaria is convicting asylum seekers for unauthorised border crossings within the European Union and due to the massive social upheavals in Africa and the Middle East the problem is only compounding.

From Jock Palfreeman

Chairman of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Association

 

Below you can find the files of useful leaflets:

Dublin II 2012

Brochure for asylum seekers English 2013

Brochure for asylum seekers French 2013

Prisoners´ Complains followed by Repressions in Sofia Central Prison

Early April the director of Sofia Central Prison, Peter Krestev was
appointed acting director of the national prison body. Soon after on the
11th April Yanko Vatashki was released from the isolation unit and returned
to a general wing. The former acting vice director is now acting director
of Sofia Central Prison. Returning Yanko to the general wings was a good
beginning for the new acting director, but obviously not nearly enough.

On the 11/3/2013 a guard assaulted a Chechen refugee in 13th group. About 7
witnesses wrote statements of complaint to prison authorities. However,
instead of investigating the very serious problem of guards assaulting
prisoners, the prison administration started an investigation into how the
association helps prisoners express themselves, specifically how prisoners
were able to print their witness statements. The knee jerk reaction of the
administration is typical of the Bulgarian justice system ie don't
investigate the claims of the complaints, but instead divert attention to
how the complaints were made.

Well the association can assure the Commandant and the acting Director of
Sofia Central Prison that, yes the complaints were printed legally by a
lawyer. The real question is of course, what will the Sofia administration
do to reduce the ever increasing amount of guards assaulting prisoners.

The fact that more people have been questioned as to how the complaints
were made and sent then about their content is alarming, what's more not a
single witness has been questioned about the assault. A clear indication as
to prerogative.

The Association calls on the Sofia Central Prison administration to cease
their persecution of prisoners who dare to use their right to complain.

Essentially free speech is still a crime in bulgarian prisons. It is part
of the regime of tyranny that prisoners encounter daily. A guard will
assault a prisoner, the prisoner can not resist or face further and more
severe assault. So then said prisoner appeals by writing a complaint, the
victim and the witnesses are then harassed and bullied by the Social
Inspectors and the Director. The assault is subsequently covered up by the
prison administration and the prosecutors office.

Yanko Head Secretary of The Association was isolated for his written
complaint, i was also punished in 2012 for complaining about guards
thieving from visitors and now again the entire prison administration is
harassing prisoners for reporting an assault.

Of further note: over 35 refugees illegally convicted and serving illegal
sentences in Sofia Central Prison 10th group, have started a hunger strike
on the 26/4/13. They are demanding an end to the criminalization of seeking
asylum in Bulgaria. Unfortunately Bulgaria has not lived up to their
international commitments to protect the rights of asylum seekers.

There are also sporadic but constant hunger strikes in the Busmantsi
immigration prison, by immigrants who want to return to their home country.
The EU must bring their border into line with EU policies for asylum
seekers.

Chairman of the Bulgarian Prisoners' Rehabilitation Association.

Death of Free Speech

On the 15/3/13 the Sofia riot police entered Sofia Central Prison, they were reacting to an alert that the Director – Peter Krestev sent out due to an unprecedented amount of written and signed complaints against the prison’s conditions and indeed the Director himself, with many prisoners calling for him to be dismissed by parliament. After writing a list of wanted changes Yanko Vatashki was immediately sent to isolation after his cell was ransacked. Yanko’s only guilt was to complain. Proving that free speech is dead in Bulgaria!

 

The prison administration instead of communicating with us has taken the reactionary decision to declare our peaceful demands constitute a “riot” despite this never having been mentioned by Yanko Vatashki nor anyone else in The Association. This means that the prison has been put on high alert and essentially in a lock down type of mode. In effect the Director Peter Krestev has incurred the atmosphere of riot without it being proposed by the prisoners themselves, the reactionary measures against Yanko Vatashki and the prison as a whole has actually propagated the idea amongst prisoners that a riot is the only way parliament and Bulgarian society will listen to the cries of prisoners for reform. No one has promoted riot more then the prison administration themselves.

 

Although the GERB party resigned from parliament recently, unfortunately their underlings who rose quickly through the bureaucratic ranks are still clinging on. The nationalist-conservative politics of the GERB party was mirrored over the last 4 years with a massive rise in guard on prisoner violence and other repressive and illegal measures, no one exemplifies this better then Peter Krestev who was promoted very quickly with his friend Mitko Dimitrov, the former National Director of Prisons who was forced into early retirement following the ‘Committee for the Prevention of Torture’ report of December 2012 which can be found on this blog.

 

Really the question now is, why was Mitko Dimitrov forced from office but those around him were and are not? The ‘caretaker’ government should look seriously at the current problems most of which have been aggravated by Boiko Borrisov’s GERB party over the last 4 years. Instead of reforming the judicial system and the prison institutions all the GERB party succeeded in doing was pass a law stopping prisoners from sending appeals, complaints and requests through the prison postal system to their respective governmental institutions for example courts. This means that prisoners without money have effectively had their right to complain, appeal and request denied as they now must pay for postage themselves. It also means that even if a prisoner can pay for a stamp, there is no guarantee that the letter will arrive at it’s destination as the prison no longer gives recording numbers or tracking numbers. This is a constant problem where social workers and prison administrators destroy personal and legal correspondence and prisoners can not prove anything has happened. Previously this was not the case as a tracking number was supplied by the prison. This is all the Ministry of Justice accomplished under 4 years of GERB rule as far as prisons go.

 

The list of demands are but not exclusively:

  • The immediate resignation of the Director of Sofia Central Prison, Peter Krestev.
  • Parliament to pass an amnesty for those with small sentences remaining and partial amnesties for those with larger sentences.
  • Parliament should start an immediate audit of the Ministry of Justice corporation “Prison Work- Затворническо Дело”. The corporation’s profits are by law for the improvement of prison conditions yet not a single lev has been spent on improving prison conditions! The money instead is being stolen and defrauded by the managing body of the corporation!
  • The prisons’ canteens (shops) be regulated by the administration for fair trade, the shops are ran by “Prison Work- Затворническо Дело” and so the prices are excessively high so as to extort more money from prisoners and also so as to launder the money from the government corporation “Prison Work- Затворническо Дело” into private companies.
  • Parol to be made a right, presently parol is an arbitrary decision of the directors of prisons and there is no right of appeal.
  • Increased medical staff and medicines, also for the prison health services to come under the authority of the Ministry of Health and not the Ministry of Justice as there is a conflict of interest between caring for the health of prisoners and keeping them locked up.
  • The 24 hour intimate visits with family and friends to be re-instated, it is appalling that prisoners only have the right for 2, 40minute visits behind bars a month.
  • The end of life sentences, life sentences should be considered fully served after 20 years imprisonment, at present life sentences mean prisoners are condemned to die in prison.
  • Guards who assault prisoners should be fired! Such as Mitko Spasov who constantly seriously assaults prisoners.
  • Yanko Vatashki should be released from the isolation unit as writing complaints is not a crime.
  • All “illegal” immigrants who choose should be deported instead of serving convictions in prison for “illegal” border crossings.
  • All foreigners who want to transfer back to their countries or origin should be allowed to do so, so that they can serve their sentences in their home countries close to their family and friends.
  • Every communal cell (normally with between 6-10 prisoners) should have the right to a hot plate for cooking, there should be an end to discrimination of diet from person to person and group to group.

 

The Association calls on international support for our protests and against the repressive measures of Sofia Central Prison’s administration!

 

Please organise actions of solidarity and letters of disgust that prisoners in Bulgaria are punished for voicing concerns of dehumanising conditions and corruption within the prison clique. Letters of protest should be sent to the

 

Ministry of Justice

No 1

Slavanska st

Sofia 1040

Bulgaria

 

You can also write letters of support for prisoners who have sacrificed a lot in order to demand the rehabilitation of the prison institutions such as:

 

Yanko Vatashki

Sofia Central Prison

21 General N. Stoletov BLVD

Sofia 1309

Bulgaria

 

(Currently in isolation for complaining about the conditions in Sofia Central Prison, Yanko can only read Bulgarian, but all languages are welcome as other prisoners can translate)

 

And also

 

Miglena Aleksandrova Dimitrova

Sliven Femal Prison

Kvartal “Indistrialen”

Sliven

Post Code 8800

Bulgaria

 

(Currently being persecuted by the Sliven Prison administration as she is the first female member of the Association. Midlena can only read Bulgarian, but all languages are welcome as other prisoners can translate for her)

 

The Association also expresses solidarity to the prisoner struggles currently in Greece.

 

Chairman

Jock Palfreeman

 

Attack upon prisoners in Sofia Central Prison

On the 18/1/13 Officer in Command (OC) Mitko Spasov, led a brutal and vicious attack upon 2 prisoners in 13th group Sofia Central Prison. At around 2pm Mitko with about 10 other guards ran into 13th group with batons drawn. 13th group at the time was peaceful and quiet; there were no problems or violence before the guards entered. The guards took Martin Pekov a Bulgarian and started beating him as they had information that he had a mobile telephone. As they beat him they shouted “where is the mobile? Where is the mobile” over and over again. The OC Mitko Spasov pushed Martin to the wall and twisted his arm behind his back, whilst twisting again repeating “where is the mobile?” Martin was begging for the guards to stop beating him, then OC Mitko Spasov dislocated Martin’s shoulder by continuing to twist his arm. Martin continued begging him to stop and started crying. Then Mohammad Bigam an Iranian in 13th group said to the OC Mitko Spasov “stop, stop, you’re hurting him too much” the OC Mitko Spasov then grabbed Mitko Spasov and started to beat him too. Mohammad was beaten so badly it was suspected that he had a broken rib, but upon further medical investigation no broken bones were found.

 

Even though there were 10 guards, the prison and Director Peter Krestev have accused Martin and Mohammad of attacking the guards. It is another eye rolling accusation from the Bulgarian authorities, as if two unarmed prisoners would attack 10 armed guards. After the attacks on Martin and Mohammad, the OC Mitko Spasov took another prisoner into the corridor, grabbed him by the throat and pinned him to the wall, Mitko Spasov then started slapping this prisoner in the face and told him “you will write a statement as I dictate it to you”. The prisoner started crying and did so, Mitko Spasov dictated the statement that the prisoner wrote and then signed it.

 

The OC Mitko Spasov is now an infamous criminal protected by both the Director Peter Krestev and the apathetic “Head Directive” which is the national prison body. Both have failed to take discipline actions against this OC or the other guards who took part in the assault. To this day not a single guard has been punished for assaulting prisoners in Sofia Central Prison under the Director Peter Krestev. It is offensive for the Head Directive to claim that not a single guard has assaulted a prisoner in the last several years.

 

The assaults from guards in Sofia Cental Prison are becoming more frequent and more vicious; this is as the Director Peter Krestev wants to oppress prisoners through violence and fear. He has constantly punished prisoners who dare to write complaints. Ironically, all the assaults are pushing prisoners closer together; there is now a record high number of prisoners wanting to join the Association. Prisoners who previously were apathetic to prison activism have been shocked by the unjustified and brutal attacks lead by guards against prisoners.

 

On a positive note an Association sympathiser was released after 2 months served over his sentence. A frequent occurrence in Bulgarian prisons where there is a total break down of organisation, order and discipline amongst the administration and “social workers”. Ironically in many instances we prisoners are more organised then the under trained prison administrators (Please refer to the ‘Committee for the Prevention of Torture’-Council of Europe report from December 2012).

 

Also of concern, Peter Krestev, Director of Sofia Central Prison has collectively punished the prisoners with life sentences by reducing their meat rations by half! Those with life sentences in Bulgarian prisons are the most discriminated against, both by the law and in practice. As they are not allowed any contact with other prisoners, the prison administrations use this as an excuse to justify why they have almost no activities and no work. This means that lifers can’t work or participate in prison activities, meaning that for between 20-23 hours a day lifers automatically just because they are lifers are locked in their cells without activities or meaningful work. Apart from the psychological torment, without work lifers can’t earn money. Lifers are some of the most “socially weak” in Bulgarian prisons as their family and friends find it very hard to support them both psychologically and financially. The halving of lifers food rations is another vindictive measure undertaken by the Director Peter Krestev. It’s sad that the Director Peter Krestev has chosen to take punishments measures against the most discriminated and defenceless prisoners.

 

Sofia Central Prison, far from reforming the corrupt and backward prison institution, has actively worked to reduce the living conditions of prisons.

 

Chairman Jock Palfreeman

From behind the walls of the Bulgarian prisons

About a year has passed since the violent rape gang assaulted, sexually molested and raped up to 10 victims in Sofia Central Prison’s 8th Group. Just by the passing of time all those involved including the Mayor-Prisoner (responsible prisoner for the group), the Social-Inspector, the guards posted to 8th Group and the perpetrators and victims have all moved on to different places in the national prison system. However not a single perpetrator was ever charged for the mass rapes that took place between November and December 2011. Neither the then Social-Inspector Atanasova or the guards were ever reprimanded for their complicity in the mass rapes. This brings into question the culpability of the entire administrative body of not only Sofia Central Prison by also the special Investigator who responded to one of the victim’s complaints. Responsible for 8th Group at the time was Social-Inspector Atanasova, responsible for Social-Inspector Atanasova is the Head Social-Inspector Vasileva who sits on the Sofia Central Prison commission. Responsible for the Head Social-Inspector Vasileva is the Director of the prison, Peter Krestev. Also responsible for internal security is the Commandant Yordanov. Now these 4 people took absolutely no actions either to protect men form rape of to sanction those responsible.

Where does the buck stop? It is confirmed by witnesses that Social-Inspector Atanasova and the guards in 8th Group were informed at to the severity of the assaults and rapes. So does the buck stop with Social-Inspector Atanasova? Or sis she, as required by procedure and law inform the upper levels of the prison Administration and the Sofia City Prosecutor’s office? This question has not been answered and as so many times in the Bulgarian “justice” system it seems that it’s not ‘what’ you know but ‘who’ you know. With whom were the rapists connected to within the prison hierarchy that they were afforded a full blown cover up, that most likely went all the way up to the Director Peter Krestev, through the Head Social-Inspector Vasileva and the Commandant Yordanov. For these heads of the prison to claim ignorance of the facts is not a good enough excuse from public servants whose very job it is to know. About a year has passed and were coming up to another Christmas and yet nothing has been done to rectify an administration that protects and colludes with rapists. Most of the victims if not all were only 18 and 19 years of age, first time in prison and for minor theft and drug offences. However Sofia Central Prison took no actions to protect the most vulnerable upon entering the prison.

The standard practice of prison administrations in Bulgaria is to allow for a ‘Lord Of The Flies’ scenario to flourish where by the most violent and perverted work in collaboration with the Social-Inspectors and guards in order to control the other 99% of the prison population. In return for controlling the other prisoners they are afforded a great deal of protection from the guards and administration. Many such cases have already been published in the Bulgarian media, for example a prisoner who was responsible for the kitchen who was allowed to steal food from the prison’s supply with impunity due to his informing on other prisoners to the Head of Regimes Svetkov also on the Sofia Central Prison’s commission board which spaned a time period of over 10 years, of note the quantities of food he was stealing was several hundred portions of meals daily. Not to be forgotten is the already minimalist nature of Bulgarian prison meals, for over 10 years prisoners in Sofia Central Prison were underfed due to theft that was allowed by the prison’s administration.

In connection with corruption and food, the Head of ‘Zatvorno Delo’ or translated into English ‘Prison Work’ which is a state corporation directly under the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice has again been implicated into gross improprieties. On the 31st of October a search was conducted by the prison guards of Sofia Central Prison in the places of work of 3 buildings used by the corporation ‘Prison Work’. There they found several hundred kilos of food that had been pilfered from the Sofia Central Prison’s warehouse. Underfed prisoners could be excused for wanting more food to eat, however a large quantity of the food was also found in a guards car. As it turned out the workers of the corporation ‘Prison Work’ under the command of Nina Glavchovska and the Ministry of Justice were stealing food on mass from the prisoners’ food supplies, trafficking them out through the cars of guards from the ‘Prison Work’ Garage within Sofia Central Prison and then selling the pilfered stock outside of the prison walls. Included in the pilfered food was: Beans, lentils, rice, cooking oil, mince, potatoes, onions, yellow cheese and white cheese. All of which make up the base of prison meals.

The scandalous nature of the company ‘Prison Work’ continues as now it is under investigation for drug trafficking. In late November the national Head-Director of Bulgarian prisons, Mitko Dimitrov had his car driven into the ‘Prison Work’ garage within Sofia Central Prison. Immediately a raid was conducted by police from the Ministry of Interior (as opposed to guards of the prison from the Ministry of Justice). The personal car of Mitko Dimitrov was searched thoroughly as was the surrounding ‘Prison Work’ premises and numerous drugs and other contraband was found. It has been implied that this was in part a reason for Head-Director Mitko Dimitrov’s “early retirement”. Also to be noted, the office for the Head-Director Mitko Dimitrov is in the same building as the Director of Sofia Central Prison Peter Krestev.

With all of this mud flying around why does it stick better to some and not to others? Social-Inspector Atanasova with full antipathy has been allowed to continue her cover up of the mass rape and indeed so too have the entire administration of Sofia Central Prison. The prosecutors office has not replied, commented or investigated the matter, they obviously take their orders form the Sofia Central Prison’s administration. Nina Glavchovska, the manager of the state corporation ‘Prison Work’ who is implicated in the food pilfering out of the prison and the drug trafficking into the prison also remains untouched although the investigation into her involvement apparently continues.

For those of you who read the previous posts on this website, Asen Rusev Manef, the prisoner was badly beaten by the guards in Sofia Central Prison was found dead in his cell in Lovetch Prison, hanged to death. The police are calling in suicide, and although we have no information to the contrary we remain as you can imagine sceptical of the police findings Asen Rusev Manef died of his own hands. Needless to say the traumatic abuse he suffered at the hands of the Sofia Central staff greatly contributed to whatever psychological state he was in at the time.

Asen Rusev Manef always greeted you with a smile and a jig in his step. He was eager to please those around him, constantly shared his meals, smokes, coffee and sweets with other prisoners and was liked by many. Rest in peace Asen.

Despite all the horrible news coming from behind the walls of the Bulgarian prisons, the Association wishes all prisoners, their families and friends hope for Christmas and the new year.

Chairman

Jock Palfreeman

December 2012