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10 July 2003 Edition

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Back to the future: Warders assault prisoners in Maghaberry

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly has voiced his concern at reports that prisoners in Maghaberry Prison were assaulted by prison warders and forcibly washed when high powered hoses were turned on them.

The prisoners, connected to the so-called Continuity and Real IRA micro-groupings, are said to be taking part in a No Wash protest over attempts by the prison authorities to share cells with loyalists prisoners.

The prisoners are also demanding segregation from loyalists.

On Monday 7 July, prison warders moved into the cells of ten men who are taking part in the protest and who had smeared excrement on their cells walls. It was as the prisoners were being taken from their cells that the assaults are believed to have taken place.

Both the prison authorities and British prisons minister Jane Kennedy denied that any assaults had occurred during the operation, but Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly describing the situation in Maghaberry as "completely unacceptable".

"The prison system seems to have regressed to the draconian standards employed against republican prisoners pre-hunger strike," he said. "Listening to the British Security Minister Jane Kennedy and the POA representative, it seems as if no lessons have been learned from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

"The information from Maghaberry is that prisoners are being locked up for over 22 hours a day and are being forced to share accommodation with loyalists. Reports also suggest that the prisoners are being verbally abused and physically assaulted not just by loyalists but by prison warders.

"Sinn Féin is calling for the immediate restoration of prisoners' rights and conditions won by republican political prisoners over the last 30 years. The prison authorities must realise that every prisoner has rights and that one of the rights is to be treated humanely. The British government needs to act immediately to prevent this situation from deteriorating."
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