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Notes on the post-1989 practice

Until recently, the main religious activities in Bulgarian prisons were linked mostly with the Orthodox Church. The first priest appointed at the Sofia Prison was Father Nikolay Georgiev from the Sofia Diocese. As such, he initiated the building of an Orthodox chapel there. It was consecrated on December 22, 1996. In 2000, he also founded the Prison Fellowship Bulgaria for Religious and Social Support of the Detainees. The Fellowship started the annual initiative “The Angel Tree” that collects donations for Christmas gifts for the children of prisoners. In 2015, the Fellowship started a new program, “The Prisoner’s journey”. It envisions 8 teaching sessions, based on the Book of Mark, to be held in the prisons in Sofia, Stara Zagora and Vratsa. The program is blessed by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and is realized in cooperation with those of its priests who work at the mentioned prisons. Currently, Father Nikolay is also the regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the Prison Fellowship International.
Evangelical pastors also have been granted access to prisons. For about 13 year, Pastor Ivodor Kovachev has developed religious activities in the Sofia Prison, where he is in charge of over 50 prisoners.
The public information about the religious rights of Muslim prisoners is quite scarce. Still, it seems that the observance of the dietary rules of this religion may be a source of problems. For example, the administration of one of the prisons was sued by a Muslim prisoner with life long sentence, because he had been forced to eat pork for about a year. In 2005, the prisoner won the case at the first instance.

 The Amendments to the 1969 Penalty Law, available in Bulgarian.
 The 2009 Penalty Law, available in Bulgarian.
 Judgment No. 73, the Administrative Court of Stara Zagora, May 7, 2005, available in Bulgarian.

D 15 January 2016    ADaniela Kalkandjieva

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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