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 i.e. 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.