Irish Republican News · August 13, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Lillis held incommunicado in ‘a pantomime of callousness’

The Life Sentence Review Commissioners sat yesterday [Friday] to consider the case of critically ill internee Brendan Lillis, who remains under the watch of prison warders at a hospital in Belfast following his transfer from notorious Maghaberry jail earlier this week.

Following a brief visit yesterday, his partner Roisin Lynch was today informed by Maghaberry prison officials that Brendan is being refused phone calls or any further visits for this week. There was no explanation for the action.

The former political prisoner was summarily imprisoned by a British decree two years ago and told that he was considered a threat to society and would have to complete a sentence for IRA actions originally handed down in 1977 -- despite a 16-year hiatus.

He is one of a number of interned prisoners currently being held at Maghaberry, forty years after internment was introduced in the North.

His medical condition, Ankylosing Spondilitis, has now caused his spine to fuse and his weight to plunge to around 70 pounds. Images of his suffering published this month have recalled the plight of the H-Block hunger strikers of Long Kesh prison thirty years ago.

Brendan’s current status is complicated by the fact that the Maghaberry prison authorities are claiming to exercise authority over the wing of Belfast City Hospital in which Brendan is being held. That claim has been questioned by health officials as well as supporters of the campaign for his release.

A number of prison warders who are maintaining a guard over Brendan are now understood to have taken control of telephones at the hospital and are even impersonating medical staff in dealings with his family.

Supporters of the campaign have today bombarded the prison with phone calls to end what they is the prison’s vindictive stranglehold over communications and the abuses by prison staff. A direct protest may also take place outside the hospital itself, despite its location in loyalist south Belfast.

Meanwhile, the Life Sentence Review Commission, also known as the Parole Commission, is being urged in the strongest terms to make a humanitarian decision to release Brendan into the care of his family. Their meeting on Friday lasted several hours, and their decision will only be made known at an unspecified later date, possibly next week.

Commenting on the situation, Brendan Lillis’ friends and family have blasted the prison authorities for inflicting further agony on Brendan and his partner.

“Yet another delay in making a decision in this case adds to the emotional turmoil both Brendan and Roisin are going through, and is a calculated insult to the people working to secure Brendan’s release,” a statement said.

“The facts of the Brendan Lillis case are very well known and aired. Further delays in coming to the only humanitarian conclusion is only prolonging the agony for both Brendan and Roisin and is nothing short of the shameful antics of a discredited justice system.

“We call for the immediate release of Brendan Lillis and an end to this pantomime of callousness.”

There was also anger over a report this week in the pro-unionist Belfast Telegraph in which it was claimed that Brendan could receive appropriate healthcare for his life-threatening illness if he is returned to Maghaberry jail.

“Appropriate health care in Maghaberry has to date consisted of being left lying in a bed in a cell, 24 hours a day,” his friends and family said.

“For nearly two years Brendan Lillis has been left to rot; he has received no treatment other than to be administered drugs. Is a return to this type of regime appropriate for a man with his health needs?

“This travesty of justice needs to be brought to an end quickly; the claim that Brendan Lillis is a threat to society is a lie. The assertion that he will receive appropriate health care in Maghaberry is a lie.

“David Ford is the Justice Minister -- he needs to address the injustice of this whole sorry escapade, instead of acting out his role as cheer-leader for the most reactionary and bigoted elements of government.”

A protest was held today outside the GPO in Dublin while further events are planned in Dublin, Derry and Belfast for this week. Supporters at home and abroad have also been asked to send a [polite!] email, however short, to the Parole Commissioners at in support of Brendan’s parole on humanitarian grounds.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News