A motion in support of the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group (IRPSG) was passed at the Labour Representation Committee (Chair John McDonnell MP) Conference on 19 November by 250 votes to 6. It is a model motion for all Labour movement bodies, Labour CLPs, Trades Union Councils and other political and community organisations. Comradely Gerry Downing, Sec IRPSG.

Defend Civil Liberties: Political Status for Irish Republican Prisoners,
repeal the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) powers.

The situation of Irish Republican prisoners in the north of Ireland continues to deteriorate; they are subject to frequent beatings and brutal strip searches in Maghaberry. From May 2011 some have been on dirty and no-shave protest, evoking memories of the blanket men and hunger strikers of the late 70s and early 80s. More than 13 years after the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) on 10 April 1998 there are still 62 Irish Republican Prisoners in Ireland and 2 abroad, not counting remand prisoners, according to the Irish Freedom Committee – POW List of 28/8/2011.

These prisoners are in jail because they oppose the partition of Ireland via the British occupation of the six north eastern counties by British Imperialism and the GFA which they contend merely seeks to legitimise this partition and occupation. None would be in jail if Britain did not occupy the six north eastern counties of Ireland.  Under the terms of the GFA those republicans still opposing the GFA and continuing to fight for a united Ireland have lost their Special Category status and are treated more or less as common criminals.

In August 2010 after a protest that went on since Easter of that year an agreement was reached and signed by the prisoners’ representatives and by the prison authorities in Maghaberry Prison. The agreement conceded the two demands of the prisoners, freedom of movement and an end to strip searching. A body scanner was provided instead. But the screws broke the agreement within weeks, the first prisoner going out to court was brutally strip searched. Colin Duffy was strip searched 8 times for a 4 day court hearing, so brutally that he had very obvious injuries and appeared in court naked from the waist up because he refused to wear a prison uniform top.

The frame up and revocation of the licences of some of those released under the GFA constitute a hidden form of internment of those who wish to continue the Republican struggle.  Human Rights campaigner Monsignor Raymond Murray has this to say on the framing of Michael McKevitt; “Evidence of paid and schooled informants resembles internment, where persons were put in jail on the suspicion, prejudice or dislike of anonymous agents. The social and political consequences of accepting evidence of a long-term paid informant like Rupert (highly paid informant David Rupert) are very serious and long-lasting. … (The document) The Framing of Michael McKevitt, (presents a) strong argument for the innocence of Michael McKevitt”.  

In like manner Michael Campbell was set up in a ‘sting’ operation by MI5, the Irish and Lithuanian intelligence agencies and jailed in Lithuania on 21 October 2011 for 12 Years. The spooks had in fact initiated the arms deal on which he was convicted. His lawyer, Ingrida Botyriene, said: “He would never be involved in arms deals and would never go to Lithuania for such an affair if he had not been provoked by secret agents.” 

Marian Price – a founder-member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement – is one of a number of political activists held without trial. To be a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is by no means illegal, nor is it a criminal offence to support or join this organisation. It is not proscribed by law, nor is the Irish Republican Prisoner’s Welfare Association (which Marian Price helped found) and was until her arrest and (illegal) detention that group’s secretary. Her ‘crime’ apparently is she ‘poses a significant threat to society.’! She held a piece of paper for a masked man who read a speech from it!

Marian Price was released from Armagh Prison in 1980 having been granted an RPM – a Royal Prerogative of Mercy – as she was suffering from anorexia and tuberculosis brought on by forced-feeding and ill-treatment. This means the Secretary of State was not legally entitled to order her return to prison as she had been released by Royal Prerogative of Mercy – and not on licence. The Price legal team are now thought to be preparing to launch a legal challenge in the light of this information. 

Lurgan man Martin Corey, who had served 20 years in Long Kesh, was arrested in April 2010 and his licence, was revoked, according to British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward who had him arrested. He was not released on licence either and had served an extra two years having refused to sign any such licence agreement  so as to be able to politically campaign for his republican beliefs. He is still held in Maghaberry. In October, 2009 Brendan Lillis was arrested and had his license revoked despite no charges being pressed against him for alleged involvement in an attempted robbery. He suffers from a chronic medical condition called, ankylosing spondylitis which causes the spine to fuse and, though now moved to an outside hospital he remains interned.

Mohammed Hamid was found guilty in early 2008 of “soliciting to murder” under legislation dating back to 1861, despite never actually instructing anyone to any specific act. Months of surveillance, both through undercover agents and covert recording produced no evidence at all; everything was inferred and circumstantial. He was given an extremely severe sentence of 7 ½ years, together with the “imprisonment for public protection (IPP).” This sentence is extremely controversial, amounting to a life sentence unless an individual can prove that he is no longer a risk to the public. As Hamid, based on the evidence, was never accused of a violent act, how would he be expected to demonstrate that he has reformed and is no longer a risk to the public if there was never any risk to begin with?

According to Brian Barder’s website, “Nearly half of the more than 6,000 IPP prisoners in our prisons have completed the punishment and deterrence element in their sentences: they continue to endure the harsh punishment of imprisonment, not for anything they have done — they have already been punished for that — but because our risk-terrified society is scared to release them for fear that they might one day, in some way, re-offend. They are being brutally punished for offences they haven’t committed and which they might well never commit if released. And it’s worse than an ordinary prison sentence because the IPP prisoner can have no idea when or even whether he will ever be released.” http://www.barder.com/294

These conditions in Ireland, taken together with the Islamophobia highlighted by Mohammed Hamid’s conviction are a full-frontal assault on civil liberties and threaten the liberty of every serious trade unionist and political activist. Any  serious opponent of the capitalist system would never be released if arrested under these IPP powers.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is an African-American writer and journalist, author of six books and hundreds of columns and articles, who has spent the last 29 years on Pennsylvania’s death row. His demand for a new trial and freedom is supported by heads of state from France to South Africa, by Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, Desmond Tutu, by the European Parliament, by distinguished human rights organizations like Amnesty International, city governments from Detroit to San Francisco to Paris, scholars, religious leaders, artists, scientists, the Congressional Black Caucus and other members of U.S. Congress, the NAACP, labor unions, and by countless thousands who cherish democratic and human rights – and justice -the world over.

We therefore demand:
 1. Immediate implementation of the Agreement of August 2010 conceding freedom of movement and an end to strip searching.
2. Restoration of Political Status to all Irish Republican political prisoners in the north of Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and abroad.
3. Repatriation of Michael Campbell and no extradition to Lithuania of  his brother Liam, framed by the same secret intelligence agencies.
4. Release of Marian Price and Martin Corey and an end to arrest using the excuse of revoking the GFA license – this amounts to political censorship and a reintroduction of internment in another name.
5. Repeal the “Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection” laws: free Mohammed Hamid, free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Download: Free Marion Price:  An IRPSP Newsletter.

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