Shock and anger at Fusco detention
BY SEAN BRADY
Widespread anger has followed the arrest and attempted extradition to
the Six Counties of Angelo Fusco.
Fusco, who was arrested at a Garda checkpoint outside Tralee on
Monday, 3 January, was being rushed towards the border on Tuesday to
be handed over to members of the crown forces when, at the last
moment, the High Court in Dublin temporarily halted the extradition
after a successful court application by his lawyers.
It was the latest twist in what has been a 20-year saga for this
Belfast republican of Irish-Italian extraction. In May 1980, a unit of
the British army's SAS, notorious for their covert military operations
in Ireland, led by Captain Herbert Westmacott, launched an attack on a
house in Belfast which was held by four IRA Volunteers.
The SAS have a record of taking no prisoners and failure by the four
men inside the house to put up resistance would most likely have led
to their summary executions. In the ensuing heavy gunfire, the SAS
captain was killed. The four IRA members in the house - Angelo Fusco,
Joe Doherty, Robert Campbell and Paul Magee - were eventually forced
to surrender and subsequently charged with killing the SAS man and
possession of weapons, including an M60 general purpose machine gun.
The four men were among a group of eight prisoners who subsequently
escaped from Belfast's Crumlin Road Jail in June 1981, two days before
they were given life sentences by a Diplock court.
gelo Fusco fled to the 26 Counties, where he was arrested in 1982.
The British government could have sought his extradition then but knew
that the Irish courts of that time would uphold a political offence
plea. Instead Fusco was tried and convicted for the escape in the
juryless Special Court in Green Street under the Criminal Law
Jurisdiction Act (1976). He was due for release from Portlaoise at
Christmas 1991 but was instead served with extradition warrants under
the 1987 Extradition Act. By this stage, Angelo Fusco had spent longer
in prison in the 26 Counties than people convicted of murder. Fusco
won his battle against extradition in the High Court. However, the
state subsequently appealed the order to the Supreme Court which, in
February 1998, overturned the decision not to extradite him. Contrary
to some media reports, Fusco did not jump bail, as he was not on bail,
nor did he go on the run. No attempt was made to arrest him and he
lived openly in Tralee and Dublin.
Sinn Féin strongly condemned Fusco's arrest last week. Ard Chomhairle
member and Kerry County Councillor Martin Ferris said the Garda
operation was wrong and called on the government to immediately
rescind the extradition warrants.
A large crowd of anti-extradition protestors gathered oustide the Four
Courts in Dublin on Thursday, 6 January where Fusco contested his
extradition. Those in attendance included Ferris and Sinn Féin
President Gerry Adams.
Fusco's lawyers argue that under Section 53 of the Extradition Act
1965, a warrant must be executed within a month of being issued.
Unless reasonable grounds are shown for the delay, the High Court may
order the discharge of the person named in the warrant. In the Fusco
case, the warrant was not executed within a month of the Supreme
Following the Supreme Court decision in 1998, Fusco lived openly in
Tralee for six weeks before moving to Dublin, where he lived with his
brother and worked as a builder, returning to Tralee most weekends. No
attempts were made to arrest him. A second basis for the court
challenge is that a warrant is spent after six months.
The third basis of Fusco's challenge is that radically changed
circumstances since the Supreme Court ruling have fundamentally
altered the conditions relating to his case, with the Good Friday
Agreement providing for the accelerated release of political
The High Court cannot over-rule a decision of the Supreme Court ,but
at the High Court on Thursday, 6 January, Fusco's lawyers sought a
judicial review so that the courts could deal with the major change in
Judge Joseph Finnegan granted leave for a review but to the shock and
anger of many in the court, refused to realase Fusco on bail. There
were audible gasps at this decision and one man commented ``shame'',
after which Judge Finnegan glared at the court and threatened to have
it cleared if there were any further outbursts. One of Fusco's
daughters broke down in tears in the court at the prospect of him
returning to prison and had to be comforted by her father.
Later outside the court, a group of gardaí physically attacked
anti-extradition protestors who had staged a sit-down protest against
the decision to refuse bail as Fusco was being escorted from the court
in an umarked Garda car. A number of people were injured.
Sinn Féin criticised the Garda action as ``unnecessary, heavy-handed
Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Nicky Kehoe said: ``The garda action
was over the top, unnecessary, heavy handed and provocative. If they
had allowed people to stage a peaceful, protest to show their anger
and disappointment then the situation would have passed off without
Kehoe said the Garda attitude was one of confrontation and did nothing
to help calm a situation which had to be defused by Sinn Féin
Councillors and officials.
In a further show of support for Angelo Fusco, at its meeting on
Monday, 10 January, Tralee Urban District Council unanimously passed
an emergency motion calling on the government to rescind the
extradition warrant against Angelo Fusco.