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14 March 2002 Edition

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Ferris assaulted by Gardaí

General election candidate for Kerry North, Martin Ferris, was assaulted by Gardaí in Killarney Garda Station last Sunday, according to Sinn Féin, which has accused the guards of orchestrating a campaign of political harassment against party members in the county.

On Sunday last, 10 March, Martin Ferris became the sixth member of North Kerry Sinn Féin to be arrested by Gardaí claiming to be investigating an assault on an alleged drug dealer last December. Martin Ferris has consistently denied any Sinn Féin involvement in the incident, but to date six party members, now including himself, have been arrested and subsequently released without charge.

Sinn Féin spokespersons reacted with shock and anger to news of Ferris' arrest but when the Kerry County Councillor eventually emerged from custody on Sunday night after being held for 12 hours, he revealed that he had been assaulted by Gardaí while in custody. Ferris has lodged an official complaint with the Gardaí and An Phoblacht has seen a copy of his doctor's report, showing a number of bruises on Ferris' torso.

Sinn Féin national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said that Ferris had received injuries which were physically available for people to see. "Damage was done to Mr Ferris while in police custody. It's an issue for all of society," he said.

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator and MP for Mid Ulster, Martin McGuinness, has appealed to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern "to personally intervene to bring an end the campaign of political harassment being orchestrated by the Gardaí in Kerry against Sinn Féin attempts to get Martin Ferris elected as TD for the area".

"These arrests are an attack on the democratic rights of Sinn Féin and are a direct interference in the party's preparations for the upcoming elections," said McGuinness. "Clearly, there are questions to be answered in terms of the timing and motivation of these arrests, particularly as they are occurring less than eight weeks out from an election."

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Óoacute; Caoláin protested to both the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, John O'Donoghue.

"It is no coincidence that this is one of the constituencies where Sinn Féin is challenging the main government party, Fianna Fáil, for a Dáil seat," he said. "The arrest of our North Kerry candidate must be seen in that context. I regard it as gross interference in the democratic process."
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