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18 June 1998 Edition

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SF delegation slams McArdle brutalisation

by Michael Pierse

A Sinn Féin delegation of Martin Ferris, Cathal Crumley and Frances McHugh have condemned the systematic mental and physical torture to which Irish prisoner Séamus McArdle has been subjected.

McArdle, from Crossmaglen in South Armagh, is currently on trial in London, charged with murder and conspiracy to cause explosions relating to the Canary Wharf bomb of 1996. However, the legal ethic of ``innocent until proven guilty'' has been debunked in this case.

Helicopters circling for prolonged periods over the glass roof of the court and the encasing of the defendant within a glass `bubble', surrounded by three prison officers, are coercive tactics, designed not for security purposes but rather to subconciously intimidate the jury through villification.

During his first trial, which lasted for six weeks earlier this year, he was strip searched 150 times. Since then the strip searches have continued. He is the only Irish prisoner charged with a political offence imprisoned in a special secure unit (SSU) in Belmarsh prison. The cage, which is devoid of daylight and is so small that it would be illegal to hold an animal in it, has been condemned by Amnesty International as constituting cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions - illegal under international law. McArdle suffered numerous injuries, including a broken nose and jaw bone, during his arrest and in prison he has had handcuffs bound so tight as that they cut off his blood circulation, leaving him incapable of walking.

He has had only six visits since his arrest in April 1997 and has not seen his sister or parents in that time. The SF delegation have demanded that ``this innocent young man be treated as such'' and have urged people to send letters of support to Séamus and also to write to the Home Office, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London.
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