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Bulgaria Vice President Joins Calls for Ban on Life without Parole

Crime | November 28, 2012, Wednesday // 12:49| Views: 1091 | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Bulgaria Vice President Joins Calls for Ban on Life without Parole Bulgaria's Vice President Margarita Popova previously served as Justice Minister. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Bulgaria's vice president has renewed calls for abolishing the life without parole sentence, saying it is cruel and inhuman.

"This is a cruel and barbaric punishment and it is hard to say which is worse – life without parole or death sentence," Margarita Popova said at a sofia conference dealing with the topic of pardoning on Wednesday.

She pointed out that two consecutive governments, including the current one, on which she was a member, have been seeking to make the difference with a new Penal Code bill, which although nearly completed, still has not been tabled in parliament.

A proposal for the abolishment of the heaviest sentence in Bulgaria's Penal Code, life imprisonment without parole, was put to the vote in parliament last summer, only to be rejected.

The move came 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.

Was the proposal adopted, it meant that the convicts, found guilty of the heaviest crimes, were to have the chance to walk out of prison after serving twenty years and behaving well.

Thirteen EU member states have no such penalty. Spain, Portugal and Croatia have no legislative provisions even for life imprisonment.

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without parole in its Penal Code as "a temporary and exceptional measure" to replace the death sentence after it was repealed.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.

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 25, 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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