IRA prisoners falsely imprisoned are to attempt to have their convictions overturned and their records cleared.
Up to 300 republican former prisoners whose confessions were extracted from them under torture in British interrogation centres are set to challenge the convictions. Many ex-prisoners cannot find jobs, insurance or loans because of their convictions and are barred from entry to countries like the US.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Caral Ni Chuilin said: “A lot of men in Long Kesh were only there because they signed a confession extracted from them under extreme circumstances in places like Castlereagh and Gough.
“Michael Culbert, director of republican ex-prisoners’ group Coiste, said there was no organised attempt to overturn convictions but he added he was aware of a number of cases.
“There is a difference between individuals and it being a structured matter, there is no structured campaign.” He said he didn’t know exactly how many people would take cases but doubted 300 were involved but that the move was not surprising.
“After all, so many of them were in jail for things they actually had nothing to do with. Many were convicted by signing false statements under torture or under the flimsiest of evidence and were locked away for years.”
Mr Culbert said one of the prime motivations was employment.
“Prisoners can’t get jobs because of their convictions, or even insurance or loans. In some cases they can’t get into countries like the US, Canada or Australia. So if they can wipe their record clean by proving that the convictions against them were unjust and flawed, why not?”
Following the failure of the policy of internment without trial, those suspected of involvement in the IRA were systematically convicted and jailed by non-jury British ‘Diplock’ courts, which republicans typically do not recognise.
Earlier this year Danny Morrison, Sinn Féin’s former publicity director, challenged his 1991 conviction for falsely imprisoning IRA informer Sandy Lynch a year earlier.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission recommended Mr Morrison’s case go back to the Court of Appeal. It is understood the prosecution service will not contest the appeal.
Allegations which led to Castlereagh’s reputation for torture first surfaced in the 1970s at a time when the conflict was at its peak.
In one three-year period about this time, more than 3,000 people were charged with “terrorist offences” based largely on confessions obtained at Castlereagh.
A report by Amnesty International published in 1977 documented 58 cases of mistreatment at Castlereagh by plain clothes detectives and called for a public inquiry.