Irish Republican News · July 2, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Free Ciaran Ferry campaign appeal
Free Ciaran Ferry campaign appeal

The Ciaran Ferry Freedom Action Committee is holding a raffle to benefit the legal defence fund for Ciaran, an Irish republican and current U.S. resident unjustly imprisoned at the whim of U.S. immigration authorities.

Tickets can be ordered online and there are a range of prizes. More information is available at www.freeciaranferry.com

The following is some background to the case.


The Ciaran Ferry Freedom Action Committee is holding a raffle to benefit the legal defence fund for Ciaran, an Irish republican and current U.S. resident unjustly imprisoned at the whim of U.S. immigration authorities.

Tickets can be ordered online and there are a range of prizes. More information is available at www.freeciaranferry.com

The following is some background to the case. -----------------------------------------------------------------

Ciaran, like many other Irish children, witnessed the violence of the conflict in his country from a young age. At twelve, he watched as a neighbor, Sean Downes, was shot dead by the RUC during a gathering at the Sinn Féin office on the Andersonstown Road, where American civil rights lawyer Martin Galvin was giving a speech..

In 1988, Ciaran was present during the gun and grenade attack by Michael Stone, a member of a Loyalist murder gang (UDA), during the burial service of three unarmed IRA volunteers who were murdered by the SAS in Gibraltar. The attack in West Belfasts’ Milltown Cemetary left 3 dead and numerous injured, many of them children.

Enduring harrassment by the RUC and British Army patrols was a reality of daily life in West Belfast. Ciaran vividly recalls seeing his brother, Sean, beaten by the RUC in front of the families’ Lenadoon home. Ciaran himself was the victim of harrassment when a British Army Marine put his gun up to Ciaran’s throat as he stood in the street talking with friends. The British Marines had been angered by local children throwing milk bottles at them, and were looking for someone to vent their anger upon.

A few years later, Paratroopers violently attacked a group of young adults - several of them friends and neighbors of Ciaran’s and one an Australian national - with batons, an incident that would later result in government compensation being paid out to the injured youths.

It is events such as these, and the long, troubled history of the British presence in Ireland, that would ultimately result in Ciaran’s involvement in the fight to end British occupation.

In March of 1993, one month shy of his twenty first birthday, Ciaran was detained by the British after a car in which he was a passenger was stopped on a Belfast motorway. The car contained two rifles. Ciaran was interrogated for 2 days in the notorious Castlereagh Interrogation Centre before being charged with Possession of Weapons and Conspiracy to Murder Persons Unknown. He was then remanded to Crumlin Road Jail, where he was held for eighteen months.

In 1995, Ciaran was tried under the Diplock (no-jury) court system, and quickly sentenced to 22 years in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh Prison, located just outside of Belfast.

Ciaran spent his time in the Kesh wisely; taking courses through the Open University towards a degree in Social Sciences, writing poetry, and studying and becoming a fluent speaker of the Irish Language.

In 1998, the historic Good Friday Peace Accord was brokered by the Irish and British governments and political parties in the north of Ireland, with the active involvement of the United States - most notably President Bill Clinton and Senator George Mitchell. Voters overwhelmingly passed the resolution: 71.2% of voters in the northern Six Counties and 95% of voters south of the long contested “border,” showing strong support for stipulations such as; cross border institutions, overhaul of the “justice” system, the creation of a new police force, demilitarization, establishment of a human rights commission, adoption of an equality agenda, the removal of the gun from Irish politics and the release of all political prisoners.

Under the Good Friday Agreement the prisoners in Long Kesh received periods of home leave to use before their eventual release. It was during a period home leave that Ciaran had the opportunity to meet his future wife Heaven Sheehan, an American whom he had met through the Prisoner Writing Campaign. Heaven returned to Belfast a number of times in the following months to visit Ciaran in Long Kesh and spend time with him on home leave. The couple became engaged over Christmas in 1999.

Ciaran was released on July 19, 2000, after spending a quarter of his young life behind bars. A month later, Ciaran and Heaven were married in Belfast, and they settled in Andersonstown. Ciaran’s safety became an increasing concern after the RUC confirmed that his name had been found on Loyalist “death lists,” which are listings of the names and addresses of Catholic, Republican and Nationalists. During a visit to Heaven’s family over Christmas they decided to stay in the United States to provide a safer life for the child they now knew they were expecting.

Their daughter, Fiona Rose Ferry, was born in Colorado on June 1, 2001. Ciaran was a “stay at home dad” until March of 2002, when the Immigration & Naturalization Service (now the Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement) granted him authorization to work in the United States.

Ciaran immediately found work as a landscaper in the Boulder area, a job that gave him ample opportunity to enjoy the Colorado sunshine. In September of 2002, following the death of Heaven’s beloved grandfather, the couple was presented with the opportunity purchase his home in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. Because of the wonderful opportunity, and because both Heaven and Ciaran have extended family in New Jersey and New York, they decided to try living on the East Coast.

Ciaran found work with his brother at a textile company in Paterson, where he joined the union and the legions of commuters on the New Jersey Turnpike. Heaven worked from home as a web designer, which enabled her to stay home with Fiona.

Just as the couple had decided to return to Colorado, they received notification from the INS that their presence was required the very next week for a routine interview in conjunction with Ciaran’s permanent residence application. Attempts to reschedule the interview were unsuccessful, so with little time to spare, the couple flew to Denver, leaving all of their belongings behind.

On January 30th at 8:30 am, Ciaran was taken into custody by the INS.

Four months later, Ciaran’s asylum hearing was held in Denver. In an unusual turn of events, the Judge presiding over the hearing denied Ciaran the use of live expert witnesses for the trial, accepting only written testimony. Ciaran’s father traveled from Ireland to testified to the brutality that British occupation inflicted on their family.

After spending nine months in solitary confinement at the Denver County Jail, Ciaran was moved to Jefferson County Jail in September, 2003 and mixed in with the convicted criminal population, despite having no criminal charges pressed or pending against him.

On November 4, 2003, Judge Vandello denied Ciaran Ferry political and religious asylum in the United States. Vandello’s decision, completely ignoring the Good Friday Accords and ongoing peace process in Ireland, refused to recognize Ciaran’s previous charges in the north of Ireland as politically motivated - which would entitle him to political and/or religious asylum under the political offense exception in immigration law.

A notice of intent to appeal this decision was filed with the Board of Immigration Appeals in December of 2003. The formal appeal will be filed by mid-2004.

The Habeas Corpus petition, filed in April 2003 and heard by Judge Nottingham in Denver in May of 2003, after almost a year has yet to be ruled on. At that hearing the judge questioned , “Mr. Ferry has been jailed this long and never seen a judge?” Ciaran’s attorneys are currently exploring legal options to get the petition back before the Judge for a ruling.

As of March, 2004, after fourteen months in detention, and in direct violation of his rights, Ciaran Ferry has yet to receive a bond hearing in front of a Judge, to legally determine his eligibility to post bail and return to his family for the duration of his appeal. He is only allowed to visit with his wife and daughter through a glass screen, and has not held his daughter for over a year.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News