Duffy still held despite court ruling
Duffy still held despite court ruling

A Belfast judge ordered today that those being interrogated by the PSNI over attacks by breakaway IRA groups early this month be released or charged.

Nevertheless, prominent Lurgan republican Colin Duffy remains at Antrim interrogation centre and his prolonged detention without charge is the subject of continuing protests and controversy.

Ahead of the court hearing this morning, two were charged - a 17-year-old boy who cannot be named due to his age, as well as former Sinn Fein councillor, Brendan McConville.

The remaining five were released today, joining two others who had been released without charge on Monday.

The detainees had been held since March 14th. At the weekend a judge granted a PSNI application to have their detention extended for a further seven days.

Outside Antrim police station, Mr Duffy’s lawyer, Pat Vernon said the PSNI’s decision to continuing holding Mr Duffy was illegal.

“We understand he has been re-arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act again, but we don’t know any further details.”

Mr Duffy has been targeted by the PSNI for harassment for almost two decades. He was previously jailed on a life sentence before being released three years later when it emerged a key witness in his trial was a unionist paramilitary.

In a statement issued today by Duffy’s family, they said the PSNI ad effectively disregarded the court ruling.

They said: “Our family has always believed from the outset that Colin’s original arrest and prolonged detention was motivated by vindictiveness on the part of the PSNI.

“Today’s action by the PSNI in re-arresting Colin, after the High Court had ruled that his continued detention was unlawful, shows the complete disregard which the PSNI has for the justice system and for the European Convention of Human Rights.

“It demonstrates the length that the PSNI are prepared to go in order to conduct this vendetta against Colin.

“It also demonstrates that the PSNI believe themselves to be above the courts. It is clear that the PSNI is not accountable to either politicians or to the courts.

“Colin has previously been the victim of persecution by the state and its forces which included previous periods of imprisonment which were proven to be completely unjustified.

“It should not be forgotten that this campaign of persecution also involved a murder attempt which resulted in the death of a close family friend, Sam Marshall. It later emerged in court that one of the vehicles involved in that murder belonged to British military intelligence.

The family called for his immediate release and appealed to all those interested in justice to support their campaign to return Mr Duffy ome to his wife and children.

Earlier this week, members of the Northern Ireland Human Right Commission expressed concerns at the manner in which the detainees were being held after visiting the base.

The PSNI denied the ten men and one woman were being tortured or otherwise mistreated.

Their lawyers challenged this extension and today Chief Justice Brian Kerr quashed the original ruling on the basis that normal legal procedures had not been applied.

Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams said he welcomed the ruling.

“Detaining people for periods extending beyond human rights best practice is simply not acceptable and must not happen in the future.

“I welcome the ruling of the High Court this morning. This case should never have had to arise. Our position has been made very clear both publicly and privately to the British Government and the PSNI.

“If evidence does exist against an individual, then that person should be charged and that evidence tested before the courts.

“If no such evidence exists, then that person should be released.”

Joe McVeigh, of Kevin Winters solicitors which represents the five released detainees, welcomed the ruling.

“We have always taken the view that not to examine the conduct of arresting officers when considering to detain people under the Terrorism Act has always been a breach of human rights,” he said.

Direct Rule Justice Minister Paul Goggins said today’s ruling had been issued on a technical point and was a temporary setback. He added that the PSNI remained “resolute and determined” to pursue the Continuity IRA and Real IRA who carried out the attacks earlier this month.

Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey later said that Mr Duffy should be released or charged.

“This afternoon’s re-arrest is a clear abuse of the court’s judgment,” he said.

“The PSNI must be seen to operate to the highest standards of human rights compliance in order to ensure public confidence in due process.”

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