Prisons of shame: Action Maghaberry, Ireland, June 5, 2011

June 6, 2011

Not long back from Maghaberry, god it’s a grim place. I cant even begin to imagine what the prisoners in there have to go through. Brutalised and beaten daily, forced strip searches, forced to pour their urine and bodily wastes through their cell doors, deprived of natural light and fresh air. Today they were given a much need morale boost. 500 people marched from the visitor car park to the main prison gates. People carried flags, banners and placards in support of the POWs. Whistles, air horns and fireworks were let off to make as much noise as possible so the POWs could hear us. We then went silent as we heard the POWs responding by banging their cell doors, walls and chanting. Pol Mac Adaim sang a few songs for the POWs. Local independent republican Cllr Davy Hyland was the main speaker and spoke very well, drawing comparisons to todays situation and the situation 30 years ago. We then marched down the side of Roe House chanting, banging, whistling etc. On the other side of the fence were the loyalist screws in riot gear with guard dogs, the same bigots who are torturing our POWs. We then made our way back to the car park and a cavalcade of over 60 cars drove up to the main gates sounding their horns. After the protest we were met with a massive “security operation” just a few hundred yards down the road from Maghaberry. Dozens of heavily armed members of the RUC/PSNI and numerous armoured land rovers stopped and searched cars and mini buses that were leaving the protest. All in all it was a great event that generated some much needed publicity and awareness to the plight endured by our POWs while at the same time giving the POWs a much needed boost. This is only the start! VICTORY TO THE POWs

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Thirty-eight Republican Prisoners currently imprisoned in Maghaberry Gaol. “Controlled movement” is imposed on Republican landings with only three prisoners permitted out of their cells on the landing at any one time with each prisoner accompanied by two prison officers. Free Association on landings completely removed. Legislation introduced by British government following the Good Friday Agreement removed the right of Republican prisoners to organise themselves on their own landings and removed the right of Republican prisoners to spend their time in prison constructively. Prisoners made to chose between daily exercise or education. Prisoners denied educational facilities to enable them to organise their own education. Easter lilies banned in the prison. Other Republican handicrafts confiscated and destroyed by prison officers. PSNI/RUC approval required before prisoners permitted on Republican landing. Republican prisoners’ parole entitlement has been reduced to half that of other prisoners. Denial of compassionate paroles for family and religious occasions. Parole for funerals of immediate family members often restricted to 6 hours or less. Constant use of strip searching to humiliate prisoners contrary to international law. One prisoner received 31 strip searches and 1,135 rub down searches in a six month period. Prisoners locked in their cells for alternately 21/23 hours per day. Abuse of the sniffer dogs in an attempt to criminalise political prisoners. Families and prisoners are wrongly accused of smuggling drugs into the prison. Familes are forced to have closed family visits which take place through Perspex screen while prisoners returning from parole are placed in solitary confinement for 48 hours. Family visitors exposed to Loyalist visitors while visiting prison. Prisoners exposed to Loyalists going to and from legal visits. The power of the Governor to punish a prisoner by taking away remission was reintroduced specifically for Republican prisoners after it was banned by the European Court of Human Rights in 2002. Access to a doctor available only once a week. Interference with correspondence. Irish language and cultural items including handicrafts made relating to hunger strikes confiscated or destroyed by prison officers.

Friends of Brendan Lillis:
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