On the 18th of January 2013 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