The recent suspension of Section 44 of the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act’ has not deterred the PSNI in harassing nationalists.
Last month, the new republican political party, eirigi, said two of its activists were driving along the Armagh Road in Newry when they were stopped by the PSNI.
The pair were removed from the vehicle and were forced to endure what was described as “a humiliating search” in front of dozens of pedestrians and motorists under sections 21 and 24 of the British government’s Justice and Security Act.
They were then questioned about their movements and their personal details were recorded while the vehicle was thoroughly searched by other members of the PSNI.
The legislation under which the detention took place was introduced in 2007 and its remit confined to the North of Ireland. The act contains repressive powers for the political police, the Six County judiciary and the British army.
eirigi general secretary Breandan Mac Cionnaith said: “Only last week, eirigi predicted that section 44 would simply be replaced with equally abhorrent legislation. It’s now clear that our prediction has become reality.
“eirigi activists in Newry are no strangers to Crown Forces harassment.
“In recent times, they have been harassed while delivering leaflets and, just last month, an activist’s home in the Derrybeg estate was targeted in a dawn raid which extended into a search operation of the estate itself which lasted the whole day. Now, our activists are being stopped under the draconian British Justice and Security Act. It’s clear that our activists and supporters in the area are being singled out for special treatment because of their political activities.
“The PSNI are only proving by their own actions that they are an unchanged, unaccountable paramilitary force. The PSNI remains a British police force, enforcing British law in support of the British occupation.”
Mr Mac Cionnaith added: “No amount of PSNI harassment, in Newry or anywhere else, will prevent eirigi activists from continuing the work of rebuilding the republican struggle.”
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement reported that one if its members and his girlfriend were subjected to a “vicious assault” by the PSNI as they crossed the border last week.
The couple were travelling back from Donegal in a taxi after attending a friend’s wedding.
After crossing the border in a taxi, they were stopped and detained by a PSNI patrol which included members of the notorious ‘Tactical Support Groups’.
Ordered out of the vehicle, the PSNI used “telescopic metal batons” as well as “the butts and barrels of the rifles they were carrying” to assault the 32CSM member.
His girlfriend attempted to intervene but she herself had the legs taken from her with the metal batons and was also beaten around the back, the group said.
Once on the ground, the PSNI bound their legs with duct tape and took them to Strand Road Barracks in Derry, where the 32CSM man was again assaulted.
“The RUC/PSNI in Derry appear to have been given carte blanche by the courts to assault and brutalise Republican Political Activists,” the group said.
“The recent case where Gary Donnelly had his arm broken in three places before being himself charged with assault and given a seven month custodial sentence bears out that fact.
“The law that the Crown forces pay lip service to appears to get left at the door of Strand Road Barracks and given it’s recent chequered history whilst ‘holding’ prisoners, Republicans have every right to be wary.
“The RUC/PSNI appear to be able to carry out unprovoked assaults on Republicans, even in front of witnesses, safe in the knowledge that the court system has their back. The escalation of targeting and assaulting the loved ones of activists is also becoming more prevalent.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Network for Unity has also noted an increase in political harassment, including within the 26 Counties.
RNU spokesperson Danny McBrearty said: the Offences Against the State Act was being used against political Activists in the South in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“In early July, two RNU Activists had been travelling home in County Louth when their car was suddenly ran off the road by members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Special Branch.
“The two men were dragged from the vehicle, handcuffed, assaulted and forced to lie on the road at gunpoint for over an hour. They were subsequently arrested and their homes were also searched. Both men were then held for two days at separate Garda Stations.
“Intrusive surveillance, intimidation and the arrests of RNU members under vague laws have amplified dramatically over the past six months, without much public scrutiny. Repressive legislation used against legitimate political activity must be opposed as it constitutes human rights abuses by the State and its political police.
“For our part, the Republican Network for Unity remains fully committed to exposing breaches of civil liberties and building a just and free Ireland.”