2 October 1997 Edition
Prisoners stripped and beaten in English jails
Three Irish political prisoners have been assaulted in Whitemoor Prison, England. POWs Hugh Doherty, Harry Duggan and Donal Gannon were brought down individually to a basement cell where they were stripped, assaulted and left naked. The assaults came as prison staff forcibly took DNA samples from the prisoners early last week.
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty called on the Dublin government to raise the issue with the British and to object strenuously to such assaults on Irish citizens. He also called on the government to immediately repatriate all republican prisoners in English jails.
Doherty pointed out that the attacks on the prisoners had come at a delicate time in the Irish Peace process. "During the last IRA cessation jail conditions for republican prisoners worsened dramatically. The death of Pat Kelly from skin cancer was linked directly to the authorities initially ignoring his condition and then the long delay in getting the necessary treatment for his cancer," he said.
* On Wednesday, Dublin Foreign Minister Ray Burke expressed concern about the prisoners in England and said that Irish consular officials are currently visiting the prisons concerned.
Prisoner brutalised in Belmarsh
Despite British government claims to the contrary, Irish political prisoners are still being held in special units which have been condemned by Amnesty International. The British are now using the Special Secure Units (SSUs) at Belmarsh prison to punish Irish republican prisoners on remand.
In one case Brian McHugh was held in isolation for 23 hours a day and then was refused a phonecall home, his only contact with the outside. He was denied access to the prison shop and was unable to get batteries for his radio.
Despite being attacked by a sniffer dog on a previous visit to her brother, Frances McHugh was forced to face the dog again and undergo a drugs test. Frances feared she would again be attacked by the warder's dog but was told that if she refused the drugs test she would be subject to a closed visit. "They knew Brian would refuse it and they would have isolated him further," Frances said.
She underwent the test while all the time the dog handler shouted at her, calling her a liar and saying that they had a video to prove that the dog never attacked her. She described the experience as "traumatic".
Frances McHugh says that when the authorities cannot punish her brother any further, they punish his visitors. She points out that Brian is being subjected to a petty, punitive regime despite the fact that he has been convicted of no crime.