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13 February 1997 Edition

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Set Róisín free

A young Irishwoman who is seven months pregnant is lying without proper medical treatment, subject to daily strip-searches, and cut off from relatives and friends in the ``concrete tomb'' of high security in an English prison.

The woman is 25-year old remand prisoner Roisín McAliskey and her plight has caused such outrage that this week Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action demand on her case. This is only the second time Amnesty has issued such an Urgent Action in relation to Ireland.

Roisín McAliskey is in court in London today (Thursday) on extradition proceedings. Her extradition is sought by the German authorities who at every stage have opposed bail. On Wednesday 12 February members of the Roisín McAliskey Justice Campaign occupied the German Institute on Merrion Square, Dublin to demand that Germany stop opposing bail.

The Director of the Institute met the protesters and expressed sympathy for Roisín's case. The German Ambassador was visiting the building and said that he appreciated the peaceful nature of the protest and would be contacting Bonn regarding the case.

A spokesperson for the campaign, Cepta Hopkins, told An Phoblacht: ``Two governments - the Germans and the British - share the shame for Roisín's treatment. It must be stopped.''

Amnesty Urgent Action on Roisín McAliskey

By Eoin O Broin

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action Appeal in the case of pregnant detainee Roisin McAliskey, only the second to be issued in relation to the conflict in the Six Counties.

The appeal, from Amnesty's International Secretariat in London, is calling on all concerned individuals to write to British Home Secretary Michael Howard and demand an end to the ``cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including strip-searching'' which McAliskey is experiencing.

The Urgent Action Appeal is only the second ever issued in relation to Ireland, the first was for17 year old Damien Austin who was beaten in custody by the RUC in the early 1990s.

Amnesty stated:

``As a Category A high security prisoner on remand, Roisín McAliskey is strip-searched twice a day, morning and evening, as well as before and after visits even though she has `closed' visits, meaning that there is no possible physical contact between her and her visitor. Amnesty International is concerned that this regular strip-searching, especially in connection with her visits, may not be necessary for security purposes and may lead to cruel, inhuman or degradiing treatment.''

McAliskey, who has been on remand since 20 November 1996 is now entering the eighth month of her pregnancy. In addition to her daily strip-searching, the British government continues to deny her adequate medical treatment and exercise.

Reacting to the news that McAliskey may not be allowed to remain with her baby when it is born, Amnesty said: ``The outcome of the decision to separate mother and baby would amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and would permanently damage the mother-child bonding relationship.''

Belfast based Committee on the Administration of Justice said they were ``gravely concerned'' at the conditions of imprisonment, while the American Human Rights Watch said that her detention was ``an appaling violation of the most basic standards of care for prisoners''.

Labour Party MP Kevin McNamara tabled a motion in the House of Commons on 10 February to highlight Amnesty's concerns and a group of Fianna Fail MEP's last week visited Roisin and afterwards called on Tánaiste Dick Spring to raise the matter with Patrick Mayhew.

Roisín McAliskey appears before Bow Street magistrates Court today (Thursday 13 February) where it is expected that a date for her extradition hearing will be set. Fuascailt, the Irish Political Prisoners Campaign, is picketing the court.

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