8 January 1998 Edition

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Artt back with fellow escapers

by Christy Mac an Bhaird

Irish political prisoner Kevin Barry Artt was transferred back to the Federal Detention Center at Pleasanton, California, last week, and is now housed in the wing with fellow Long Kesh escaper Pól Brennan. Terry Kirby, another Long Kesh escaper, is held at the same facility, but in another wing.

Artt, who has spent more time in US jails without charge than he spent in British jails in the Six Counties, had requested the transfer some time ago.

All three men escaped from Long Kesh in 1983 along with 35 others. They are being held without charge pending an appeal on an extradition request from Britain.

Ironically, the transfer came after Federal Judge, Charles Legge, issued an order saying Artt was not a security risk, a claim that had been made by the California Bureau of Prisons to deny the Belfast man's request to be moved back with his prison colleagues.

Legge was the judge who ordered Artt, Brennan and Kirby back to jail in August, while they await an appeal on a decision to extradite them.

In a letter to the BOP, Legge reportedly wrote that the three were not a security risk, pointing out that they had surrendered themselves to authorities when ordered by the court and that they had made all appointments.

Artt told The Irish People last Friday thet he was doing well and that he was relieved to be back with his comrades. He was being held in the maximum security North County Jail in Oakland, after local prosecutors claimed placing the three men together amounted to a ``security risk.''

Mairéad Keane, the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle representative to the party's delegation in Washington, DC, visited both Brennan and Kirby just after Christmas while in California on a private visit.

``I found both Pól and Terry to be well, it was a good visit. I gave them an update on the current status of the peace negotiations in Stormont and they expressed their thanks for the campaign being waged by Irish Americans to get them bail,'' she said, adding that unfortunately she did not see Artt because he was in the process of being transferred when she was in San Francisco.

``Pól and Terry were very enthusiastic about the support they are receiving. This is a humanitarian issue,'' she said, ``I once again urge the government to grant all three of them bail.''

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