Bulgaria Parliament Mulls Ban on Life without Parole

Crime | June 15, 2011, Wednesday // 13:42|  views

Lyuben Kornezov, MP from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, tabled the proposal. Photo by BGNES

A proposal for the abolishment of the heaviest sentence in Bulgaria's Penal Code, life imprisonment without parole, was put to discussion in parliament on Wednesday.

"The criminal is a human being and nobody has the right to deprive him of hope. Hope is the last to die," argues Lyuben Kornezov, MP from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, who tabled the proposal.

He cites the example set by thirteen EU member states, which have no such penalty. Spain, Portugal and Croatia have no legislative provisions even for life imprisonment.

"The inevitability of punishment, not its cruelty is the way we should fight crime," according to the socialist.

Currently judges in Bulgaria can deliver the harshest sentence for thirty serious and dangerous crimes - treason, espionage, sabotage, terrorism, murder, death accompanied by robbery, extortion and kidnapping, poisoning of drinking water, crimes, committed by military servicemen.

The penalty punishes people who have no chance to change, according to local legislation. It is forbidden to impose life sentence without parole on criminals under 20 and pregnant women.

Bulgaria introduced life imprisonment without parole in its Penal Code as "a temporary and exceptional measure" to replace the death sentence after it was repealed. Unlike life imprisonment where the convict can be freed after spending 30 years behind bars, here freedom is an option only if the president pardons the criminal.

"There has been no such case so far," says Kornezov.

The move comes half a year after Bulgaria's justice ministry proposed similar amendments to the Penal Code and published them online on the site of the department.

Should the proposal be adopted, it means that the convicts, found guilty of the heaviest crimes, will have the chance to walk out of prison after serving twenty years and behave well.

In one of the most popular trials, Bulgarian prosecutors have demanded a life sentence without parole for the Australian citizen Jock Palfreeman.

Palfreeman was convicted in December 2009 of fatally stabbing one man and wounding another during a street brawl in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, in 2007. He was sentenced to twenty years in jail.

Palfreeman, now 24, from Sydney, has pleaded not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defence after intervening to prevent an attack on a group of Roma, or gypsies.

He has been in custody since the December 2007 incident.

Bulgarian prosecutors, who asked for life imprisonment, claim Palfreeman was not provoked and did not act in self defence.

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