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6 November 1997 Edition

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"Outrageous treatment'' in English jail

By Laura Friel

An Irish Republican POW in Long Lartin prison in England was stripped, bundled into a van and transported to Belmarsh jail where he was placed in a padded cell. Martin McGuinness has described the treatment of POW Pat Martin as ``outrageous'' and has said he will be raising the issue ``directly with British officials through the talks process.''

On Monday 27 October, Pat Martin spoke to the governor of Long Lartin jail about prison conditions and in particular the petty and punitive way in which he was being treated by prison wardens. The meeting was straightforward and uneventful but in the early hours of the following morning Pat's cell was raided. An Phoblacht spoke to Pat's wife, Francine Martin.

``It was the riot squad. Pat was strip searched, trailed out and thrown into a prison van naked, apart from a pair of underpants,'' she said. ``He was driven to Belmarsh prison where he was placed in a padded cell.'' Pat was refused clothing for four days. ``It was only after prolonged protesting by Pat's legal representatives and Sister Sarah Clarke that he was able to receive clothing,'' Francine said.

Over a week later Pat Martin has still not received his own clothes and personal belongings from Long Lartin. He is currently being held in one of Belmarsh's notorious Special Secure Units. ``The prison authorities are claiming there wasn't enough room for his clothes in the van,'' says Francine. ``It's just a ridiculous excuse.''

Pat Martin was previously held for over a year in an SSU in Belmarsh. ``It's a concrete box,'' says Francine. ``Last time Pat was held in an SSU his health deteriorated.'' Pat was transferred to Whitemoor jail after being sentenced last July. ``Pat was reclassified and his conditions improved,'' says Francine. ``He was no longer held in an SSU and his visits were no longer closed.'' Francine visited her husband for the first time in September this year; their five children have not seen their father in over a year and a half. ``It's back to square one,'' says Francine. ``A second Christmas and the kids won't be seeing their dad.''

``The treatment of Pat Martin in this way, at anytime, would be outrageous,'' says Martin McGuinness, ``but what excuse have the prison authorities for behaving in this manner at a time when we are trying to resolve conflict?'' The hallmark of the previous government's treatment of Irish prisoners was vindictive and abusive,'' said McGuinness, ``I hope we are not going to experience a similar policy from this government.''
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