1 May 1997 Edition

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Focus of McAliskey campaign shifts to Germany

Baby due in three weeks



By Eoin O'Broin and Peadar Whelan

Roisin McAliskey will soon enter her seventh month in captivity. Wheelchair-bound and still lacking adequate medical attention, it is clear that she will give birth while in custody. The Roisín McAliskey Justice Campaign are now calling on the German authorities to make their position clear and drop opposition to bail.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Mark McLarnon of the Justice Campaign explained that ``the emphsasis of the campaign has now shifted to the German government. They have yet to make their attitude to the case clear. Much of the confusion at the bail hearings is due to mixed signals coming from German embassy officials and their legal representatives.''

``Roisín is up for bail next week, on Tuesday 6 May, and this is the Germans last chance to do the right thing,'' McLarnon said. ``Her baby is due on 21 May, just three weeks from now. If the Germans block bail, they will be responsible for whatever happens. She needs to be in hospital, not in jail, for her health and her child''.

US congresmen Peter King, co-chair of the congressional Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs, and Joseph Kennedy announced this week that 40 members of the Congress have joined them in writing to the German ambassador to the US, Jurgen Chrobog to urge the German authorities to drop its extradition warrant against McAliksey. ``Germany has no case against McAliskey,'' said King, ``and Britain has no reason to hold her''.

Her partner Sean McCotter explained to An Phoblacht that he and the McAliskey family are worried that the stress of Roisín's imprisonment, the conditions that she is being held under in Holloway and her continued ill-health may bring the birth of the baby on prematurely. According to McCotter the family and doctors treating Roisín are also worried that the baby is smaller than it should be at this stage of the pregnancy.

Belfastman McCotter said that while Roisín's health ``is a big problem in itself, her treatment in Holloway has been despicable''.

McCotter explained that the medical authorities in Holloway are acting as another arm of the British Home Office and have blocked efforts to have Ms McAliskey brought to hospital. ``In fact, the advice of two respected medical practitioners, one an obstetrician and the other a professor of midwifery, recommended in reports that Roisín be brought to hospital where she can be observed for the rest of her pregnancy, but the medical authorities in Holloway went against their advice.

``They are saying that Roisín is getting the attention she needs in the prison,'' said McCotter who went on to criticise the prison authorities' behaviour when at the start of April Roisín was rushed to hospital because of thrombosis in her leg.

``Her leg swelled up and gradually got worse during the night Finally at 4am she rang the bell and asked to see a medic who didn't arrive until an hour later. She was given two paracetamol for the swelling and told she only had `cramps'. Roisín heard the medic say to the screws who were outside her cell [she is under 24 hour guard and her cell light is never switched off], `I knew this woman would be nothing but trouble'''.

Although McCotter says that the prison warders are ``generally OK'', there are some screws who are ``creating animosity towards Roisín. The regime she is held in is oppressive because of the 24 hour watch and some of the ordinary prisoners who have befriended Roisin have been pulled and questioned about her. This puts them under pressure to leave Roisín alone and reinforces the isolation she is in. Also due to her Category A status the other women don't want her near them because the security interferes with them and causes them disruption. They resent this, but they blame Roisín for this not the authorities. One thing that hurt Roisín particularly badly happened when she visited the mother and baby unit in Holloway recently and nine of the women in it asked to be moved out because they didn't want to be in the same place as Roisín''.

With their child due any day now these are difficult times for McAliskey and McCotter, made all the harder because of the attitude of the British authorities. ``They told me I would be the first to know if anything happened,'' McCotter said, ``but when Roisín was brought to hospital because of the thrombosis I heard nothing until I heard it on the news. In fact the BBC was first to know and had a news crew at the hospital. A second time I waited for an hour and a half for a visit and they told me Roisín was in bed when all the time she was being treated for thrombosis.

``We are at the stage now where we don't expect things to happen quickly, but we are confident Roisín will get out and we will get to the bottom of the conspiracy to jail her and the blatant abuses she has been subjected to. We are confident she has no case to answer and will be released before long''.

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