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6 February 1997 Edition

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Escape trial prisoners abused at Whitemoor

BY LIAM O COILEAIN

Two of the six prisoners whose trial on charges relating to the Whitemoor breakout collapsed at the end of January, have been taken back to Whitemoor and threatened by prison officers, according to solicitor Gareth Peirce.

The Whitemoor incident took place as republican POW Paul Magee and miscarriage of justice victim Danny McNamee were being moved from Belmarsh Jail to Full Sutton Prison late last week. Instead of being driven directly to Full Sutton, the prisoners were taken on a detour to Whitemoor Prison instead.

According to Peirce, the men were strip searched twice in the reception area at Whitemoor by prison officers who had been on duty at the time of the 1994 escape attempt. They were verbally abused also and threatened that now they were in Whitemoor they would be found hanging from the end of a rope within a month. Their ordeal lasted between two and three hours before they were put back in the van and taken to Full Sutton.

In Full Sutton they are suffering further abuse from prison officers. Each night McNamee says he is routinely dragged from his bed at least two to three times to make sure he is awake and to disrupt his sleep pattern. He feels that the prison authorities are putting extra pressure on him to drop his civil case for damages. McNamee, republican prisoner Liam McCotter and Andy Russell, an English prisoner who also took part in the Whitemoor escape attempt, are all taking cases alleging that they were taken to a special cell and assaulted for five hours by prison officers after the escape attempt in September 1994. RTE News recently showed pictures of McNamee's injuries after the assault, including a head wound which required 14 stitches.

All six of the prisoners involved in the Whitemoor trial are still being held in Special Secure Units and are denied open legal and family visits.

 
Concern is also growing over the condition of republican prisoner Sean McNulty, who began a dirty protest in Whitemoor SSU last month demanding repatriation to Ireland.
In a reply to Fianna Fáil MEP Brian Crowley, who had written to the Home Office expressing concern at conditions for Irish prisoners in England, particularly those held in SSUs, Home Secretary Michael Howard has claimed that there is no problem with those conditions. ``The Prison Service is fully committed to treating all prisoners humanely and the regime in the most secure unit at Belmarsh Prison fully meets this obligation,'' he claimed. ``An assessment was carried out in June 1996 by Sir Donald Acheson of the Department of Public Health and Safety at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of all the Special Unit regimes. We have acted on those of his recommendations which bore directly upon the good health of prisoners.''
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