15 May 1997 Edition
Concern over Roisín's condition
Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness has described the weak and ill condition of pregnant Irish political prisoner Roisín McAliskey. She was unable to walk when McGuinness visited her this week as she prepares for the imminent birth of her child.
The visit to Holloway Jail took place on Tuesday 13 May. Speaking to An Phoblacht McGuinness said that ``she is being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, and physical and mental abuse. This needs to be a great concern to all.''
McAliskey is only days away from giving birth, continues to be denied access to adequate medical facilities and is wheelchair-bound. She is due to apply for bail again in Bow Street Magistrates Court, London, after the child is born. The Roisín McAliskey Justice Group is calling for her immediate release on bail and transfer to hospital.
McGuinness had a lengthy meeting with Roisín and said she was ``in good spirits although that may have only been a show for me''.
``She is only days away from giving birth, an ordeal for any woman in normal circumstances,'' McGuinness said ``and she is in captivity, away from her family and in bad health.'' He noted that ``on her way in to the room where our visit took place, Roisín was brought in a wheelchair and had great difficulty walking the short distance into the meeting room''.
McGuinness stressed McAliskey's innocence, saying there was ``no evidence against her''. ``The proper course of action,'' he said, ``would be for the British authorities to grant bail immediately and for the German authorities to realise that she is innocent and withdraw their extradition request.''
The Sinn Féin MP pledged to pursue Roisin's case, as her MP, through a number of channels both with the British and German authorities. After the visit McGuinness met with the Governor Sheldrake of Holloway and raised a number of issues including McAliskey's health, the quality of her food, lack of exercise, lack of association and denial of any Irish newspapers.
``Ironically,'' McGuinness said, ``I was visiting Roisín when Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary, stated in an address to European Foreign Ministers that human rights would be of major importance in Britain's foreign policy and that it should be of major importance in domestic policy also. The case against Roisín is threadbare and she continues to be jailed in the most intolerable of conditions. I and people across the world are deeply concerned and demand her immediate release''.
Meanwhile Amnesty International have stepped up their international campaign in support of McAliskey. They have called on the British government ``to comply with the requirements of international standards relating to detention conditions so as to ensure that incarceration regimes do not amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment''. They have also called for adequate provision of exercise, education, recreational activities and that proper measures be put in place to ensure her physical and mental well being.
By Eoin O Broin
The position of the German authorities regarding the continued detention of Roisín McAliskey has become even more confusing this week as the McAliskey Justice Group released a series of letters to the press. The letters were signed by Dr W Trautwein head of the German Legal and Consular Department, at the German Embassy, London.
One letter was addressed to Oliver Kearney of the McAliskey Justice Group and was explaining the German authorities' opposition to bail. The letter reads: ``In view of the seriousness of the charges.we must proceed with our request for detention pending extradition, as the risk of escape cannot be ruled out''. It is clear that McAliskey detention is the responsibility of the German embassy.
However, a separate letter, addressed to Barbara Prior, USA, suggests differently. The letter reads ``that all further decisions including the enforcement of detention pending extradition are solely within the competence of the English authorities, ultimately the English courts.''
The implication of the second letter is that McAliskey's detention is the responsibility of the British authorities.
Speaking to An Phoblacht Mark McLarnon of the McAliskey Justice Group said that ``it is obvious that both of these letters cannot be factually accurate. It seems that the German authorities are telling whatever story fits the situation. We have said before and we are saying it again, the German authorities must make their position clear, and stop confusing the public''.
An Phoblacht was unable to contact Dr Trautwein for a response.