12 February 1998 Edition

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Felons harassment continues

by Laura Friel

The RUC vendetta against the Felons Club continued this week with further harassment of the Association's former secretary.

On Friday afternoon around a dozen RUC personnel, armed with submachine guns and hand guns, and accompanied by British soldiers entered the premises of a West Belfast youth club where children, many as young as 7 years of age, were playing.

The reason for this display of military might was to deliver a summons to John Bradley, a former Felons Association secretary, who was supervising the play scheme.

``We asked the RUC to withdraw their armed officers from the children's immediate vicinity,'' says John, ``but they refused.''

Only two days earlier the RUC had raided John's home. They conducted the raid knowing John would be absent. At the time he was at Woodbourne RUC barracks on club business. The RUC then waited until John had returned to the Felons Club before arresting him. He was held in Grosvenor RUC Barracks.

During three hours of questioning, on the advice of his solicitor, John exercised his right to silence. He was released without charge and summoned to appear at Grosvenor Barracks for further questioning in March. But within 48 hours, he was the focus of RUC harassment once again. A judicial review against the RUC's action is currently being pursued through Belfast High Court. ``It's simply a device to circumvent my right to silence,'' says John. The summons - known as a Requirement Order - compels answers to all questions under the threat of an immediate imposition of a five year jail sentence.

``The Felons Association has run a licensed premises for over 30 years without once having its licence revoked,'' says Liam Shannon, club manager. ``The recent upsurge in raids and arrests of club members is clearly an attempt by the RUC to undermine the issuing of a new licence.''

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