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21 August 1997 Edition

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H-Block trio denied bail in US

by Mick Naughton.

San Francisco judge Charles Legge ruled last Friday evening that he would not grant bail to three 1983 H-Block escapers, Terry Kirby, Kevin Barry Artt and Pol Brennan and endorsed the possibility of a future extradtion.

Legge ordered the three to be jailed, despite granting them bail in January 1996. All three have fully complied with all bail conditions and supporters in the US declared themselves ``dismayed and angry'' at this move at a time.

The trio are to appeal, according to lawyer Julia Alloggiamento. Supporters, particulalry in the west coast of the US, have now planned rallies to highlight the three POWs' plight. They have also urged people to write to US President Bill Clinton demanding the recognition of the political circumstances surrounding the cases (see page 15).

Speaking from his prison cell earlier this week, Terry Kirby said, ``This is not about Terry Kirby and the extradition cases, deportees and our sentenced POWs in America. This is about the people of Ireland. The Irish people need the help of the Irish Americans and the American people to ensure that Sinn Féin has the same playing field as everyone else in the upcoming talks. President Clinton and the British prime minister yet they still put obstacles in front of the Irish people, and it is up to Irish Americans and to all the American people to ensure that. The Irish people need a watchdog. For as you have seen in the past week, Kevin Barry Artt, Pól Brennan and myself had our bail revoked. It is time that the voices of the people are heard. We should not have to demand justice; it is our right.''

The three men were among 38 IRA POWs who escaped from Long Kesh in 1983 and were subsequently arrested in California between 92 and 94, and held for extradition. Another west coast escaper Jimmy Smith, arrested in 92 was the first to test a revised treaty provision that had barred extradition of anyone who faced persecution because of their political or religious views. That treaty had been constructed between Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan.

Smith was subsequently extradited and is back in jail in the six counties, a fact touched upon quite cynically by Legge last week when he stated in his ruling that one previous justification for allowing the three to remain out on bail - that they were entitled to equal treatment with Jimmy Smith - no longer applied.

He also stated that while RUC interrogations might not have satisfied US standards, he refused to ``disturb'' the convictions arising from the systematic torture meted out daily to republicans in the late 1970s when all three had been arrested under the still exisiting draconian powers of the Emergency Provisions Act.
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