On Thursday the 5/9/2013 a Syrian man convicted to a year in maximum security prison for illegal border crossing was pardoned by the President of Bulgaria. Normally this would be a time of celebration and joy; however it has infuriated all the other illegal immigrants that are left in maximum security Sofia Central Prison. On Friday the 6/9/2013 about 40 illegal immigrants held a meeting in the prison’s yard during their scheduled time allowance, at first the prisoners refused to return to their block, but without physical confrontation the prisoners were convinced by the guards to return to their block. On Monday the 9/9/2013 Ahnas Duli a Syrian national was called before the temporary-Director of the prison and asked about the reasons for the protest and discontent amongst those convicted for illegal border crossings. Ahnas Duli informed the temporary-Director that they wanted to speak with the Minister of Justice, the temporary-Director told Ahnas Duli that the Minister of Justice would be informed, however no one actually believes the temporary-Director as he has lied on numerous occasions. Ironically the idea of lying to prisoners is to defuse the situation in that moment, but it only serves to compound the problem leading to more extreme and desperate acts of protest. For example the hunger strikes were ceased previously by the same people due to promises of discussion with the government, this lie made by the then Director Peter Krestev only served to increase frustration amongst the prisoners concerned and led to the events of the 6/9/2013 with a meeting and sit down protest which is considered by the prison administration an attempted riot. As would be expected security, repression and intimidation have all increased both from the guards and the prisoners who work for the prison administration against the interests of prisoners.
On the 10/9/2013 the temporary-Director of Sofia Central Svetkov announced that all those convicted of border crossing will be released on parol, a promise that is widely considered a blatant lie so as to quell discontent amongst the growing percentage of prisoners.
On the 23rd of April 2013 the Commandant of Sofia Central Prison entered the computer study room and with 2 other prisoners who work for the prison took 3 computers and cables. These printers were given by the European Union under the umbrella project of bringing Bulgaria and it’s institutions up to “European standards”. The completion of this comprehensive project totally funded by the European Union (EU) was compulsory to complete if Bulgaria’s ascension into the EU was going to be accepted. The project bringing a lot of Bulgarian institutions up to a minimum standard required for the EU was completed and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. The problem then is two fold. First, there is very little training of government institutions as to their responsibilities towards these EU funded projects and secondly no progress after the minimum standard has been acquired and worse the disintegration of the original standard acquired in 2007 due to lack of observation by EU institutions and the lack of continued funding by Bulgarian institutions. In specific, although the computer study room (which for the record has no internet) was supplied by the EU as a condition of entry into the EU, the then Director of Sofia Central Prison confiscated equipment essential to the functioning of the computer room. The Director’s motivation for confiscating equipment from the computer room, in specific the printers was that he believed that complaints against staff were being typed and printed in the computer room, specifically against several brutal beating by guards on prisoners that have been mentioned here previously. Now this is typical of the Bulgarian prison institutions, instead of dealing with the rampant human rights abuses committed by the prison staff, the first reaction is to suppress not the cause of the complaints but the perceived means by which the complaints are made i.e. the printers and computers. The whole scandal gets worse as the complaints against the prison staff were printed by lawyers and also with the help of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.
After the confiscation of the EU donated property, several complaints were made to the European Commission to Bulgaria who forwarded the complaints to the appropriate EU organ in Brussels who then relayed the complaints to the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance who is the Bulgarian organ responsible for all EU donations both in terms of cash and gifts, such as the computers and printers. The Ministry of Finance then naturally contacted the Ministry of Justice to inform them of their planned inspection of the computer room in reaction to the several complaints received about Sofia Central’s handling of the equipment. The Ministry of Justice informed the ‘Head Directive for the Fulfilment of Punishments’ (The national organ for the administration of prisons in Bulgaria) that the Ministry of Finance were on their way for a check of the computer room. Immediately the Head Directive informed Sofia Central Prison and on Thursday morning 22/8/2013 the Commandant with his two helper prisoners returned the printers to the computer room prior to the impending check by the Ministry of Finance.
The check came from the Ministry of Finance on Friday the 23/8/2013 the day after the printers were snuck back into the computer room. The printers and computer equipment was returned covered in sand and scratches from maltreatment. Several hours after the inspection came and left the Commandant with the two prisoners took everything back again at about 3:30 in the afternoon. This was witnessed by many people who immediately (again) informed the Ministry of Finance as to the deceit of Sofia Central Prison administration. The astonishing thing about this old trick was that it made clear that the Sofia Central Prison knew that taking the equipment was illegal in the first place, as if it wasn’t there would be no need for the show they put on for the Ministry of Finance.
For unknown reasons the printers were returned to the computer room on Monday the 9/9/2013. It is unclear if they were returned due to pressure from the Ministry of Finance and the EU or if the Sofia Central Prison administration is putting on another show for another impending inspection, only time will tell.