Friends and relatives of Mr Duffy have expressed outrage at a protest meeting in Lurgan, Couty Armagh at his treatment and the conditions of his detention.
The meeting was attended by Mr Duffy’s wife, Martine, and his young children. The panel and audience at the meeting on Thursday 26th March included a broad range of republican opinion.
Mr Duffy’s brother Paul said Colin was an innocent man who had experienced constant police harassment and was being framed for something he didn’t do.
Duffy, who had gone on hunger-strike, had already lost over a stone in weight and concerns were expressed about his health. He was weak and emaciated when he appeared in court last Friday.
“Lots of people in this room could be in the same situation as Collie. All he is ‘guilty’ of is standing up for his community and declaring himself an Irish republican,” said former Sinn Féin official Tony Catney.
He claimed the continuing emergency legislation showed the Six Counties wasn’t “normal”. It had the longest period of detention for suspects of any western state, including the US.
Solicitor Padraigin Drinan said: “The conditions in which Colin Duffy is being held are disgraceful. He’s in a small cell in solitary confinement with no fresh air or natural daylight.
“It’s sensory deprivation to disorientate him.”
Many of those present criticised Sinn Féin for its support of the PSNI and blasted new repressive legislation, which allows the PSNI to detain and interrogate suspected republicans for up to 28 days.
Former Assembly member Pat McNamee said: “For 40 years, even at the height of the conflict, the police weren’t allowed to detain people for more than seven days. I experienced that period myself. Now, they try to hold people 28 days.
“How can they sell this six-county state as a normal democracy? How can Colin Duffy, demonised in the media, have a fair trial?”
There were complaints that lawyers generally, human rights organisations, and the clergy remained silent about ongoing human rights abuses directed against ‘dissidents’.
Mike Ritchie of the Committee on the Administration of Justice said 28-day detention was “wrong” and there were “some very troubling elements” to recent arrests. However, “improvements” had been made including video and audio recording of police interviews and suspects securing access to solicitors during all interviews.
But former prisoner Laurence O’Neill warned Mr Duffy was “being kept in a concrete bunker without fresh air or daylight. If I kept my dog in those conditions, the animal welfare people would have me in court.
“Sinn Féin failed to negotiate a satisfactory settlement for republican Ireland. They think they’ve sidelined and intimidated all the foot-soldiers. They have not,” he declared.
Former Sinn Féin activist and Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition leader Breandan MacCionnaith insisted that British policing in Ireland could not be reformed. He pointed out that forty years after civil rights marchers demanded an end to the Special Powers Act, even more repressive legislation now existed.
“Those (Sinn Féin) who said they’d put manners on the PSNI must admit they’ve failed.”
More than 100 people gathered on Belfast’s Falls Road on Saturday to oppose what they described as “internment” of Irish citizens by the British government.
“Many Belfast people have vivid memories of being locked away without trial; they are determined that the British government will not be allowed to get away with interning people yet again,” said eirigi spokesperson Sean Mac Bradaigh.
“The British government’s policy in the Six Counties over the last decade has been one of tinkering with and modernising its occupation.
He said that, despite reports to the contrary, non-jury Diplock courts remained a key part of British policy in the Six Counties.
“In the time ahead, we may well see the increased operation of these discredited entities,” he added.