The Department of Foreign Affairs has accused the Bulgarian government of misrepresenting an Australian diplomat's comments about Jock Palfreeman, amid rising tensions between the two countries over the Australian man detained in Bulgaria.
Australia's top diplomat accredited to Bulgaria, Jon Philp, met with Bulgarian officials on Tuesday about Palfreeman's case.
Palfreeman is the son of Newcastle's Simon and Helen Palfreeman.
Palfreeman was granted parole in September after serving more than 11 years of a 20-year sentence for the murder of Bulgarian student during a 2007 brawl.
He has always maintained his innocence. But after his parole, the 32 year-old was almost immediately re-detained in Bulgarian immigration detention and his case referred to the country's highest court for review.
Palfreeman's unexpected parole was met with outrage in Bulgaria. The father of Andrei Monov - who was killed in the brawl - has been among those protesting the Australian's release.
Since his parole, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been lobbying the Bulgarian government for Palfreeman's return to Australia.
Last week, she said Australia would be "very concerned if factors other than the normal legal premises that operate in Bulgaria were at play in [Palfreeman's] case."
In comments that appear to contradict Senator Payne, a statement reportedly released by Bulgaria's Justice Minister after the most recent meeting with Mr Philp suggested Australia now had no concerns about the legal process around Palfreeman.
According to the ABC, the Bulgarian Justice Minister's statement reported Mr Philp as saying: "Australia is aware that currently everything is proceeding according to Bulgarian law and there are no deviations in the judiciary process".
But in a statement that hit back at the Bulgarian government, a DFAT spokesperson on Wednesday said Mr Philp had "reiterated Australia's strong position that we would be concerned if factors other than legal considerations were influencing Mr Palfreeman's case".
"Importantly, he raised Australia's concerns that the legal basis for Mr Palfreeman's continued detention remains unclear and that, consistent with parole being granted, he should be released and allowed to return to Australia," the spokesperson said. "Mr Philp explicitly did not use the words that he has been quoted as using. He also expressed a range of concerns, including pointing to a risk that outside pressure might influence the outcome, which as previously stated would be of significant concern to Australia."
Bulgaria's highest court adjourned on Monday, giving the judges involved two months to decide on Palfreeman's case.
Palfreeman's lawyer, Kalin Angelov, said he doesn't know when his client will be released.
"That's a million dollar question. I don't know," he told Nine News.
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