Irish political dissident Martin Corey remains in jail this weekend after a Belfast High Court decision to release him was initially blocked by the British government before being controversially overturned by the Court of Appeal.
An appeal proper is to be heard on September 28 -- leaving Mr Corey behind bars for more than two months.
Two years ago, Mr Corey, a 61-year-old interned without trial, was locked up on the basis of unseen information allegedly in the hands of the British government. This information is variously referred to in court as ‘secret’, ‘confidential’, or ‘closed’.
In a High Court hearing on Monday, Justice Treacy surprised observers of the North’s notorious judicial system when he challenged a recent decision by the Parole Commissioners to continue Mr Corey’s internment without trial.
He ruled that imprisonment of Mr Corey on the basis of ‘secret’ evidence amounted to a breach of his human rights -- and granted him unconditional bail.
But as Mr Corey was due to be released to his family, the British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson personally intervened to ensure he remained behind bars. The decision stunned the political establishment, and forced the mainstream media into censoring their own news reports.
The veteran republican’s legal team was then forced to take legal proceedings to appeal the refusal of the British authorities to implement the decision of the Court.
Karen Quinlivan QC, for Mr Corey, said the legality of her client’s detention was in question.
“For too long this man has been detained in custody without access to a proper lawful review,” she told the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.
However, the court ruled that Justice Treacy did not have the power to grant bail. It said it had received “extensive submissions” from the authorities, without further explanation.
“In our view, having regard to our conclusion that there was a connection between sentence and detention, the learned judge who granted bail, understandably in light of matters open to him and not having the same extensive submissions on authorities we have had, did not have the power to do so in the particular circumstances of this case,” said Justice Declan Morgan.
Martin Corey wasn’t present at the hearing but contacted a friend from Maghaberry prison twenty minutes after it had ended. He was not surprised at the decision. In his words “He expects little, and has learned to accept less.”
Although the court refused leave to appeal their determination to the Supreme Court, Mr Corey’s lawyers said they will still attempt to make a direct petition.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Raymond McCartney, vice-chair of the Stormont justice committee, said: “Owen Paterson’s negative interference in the due process is an affront to the justice system in the north and will damage confidence in that system.
“Justice Treacy granted Martin Corey unconditional bail and that is the judgement that should stand.”
The Chairperson of the Release Martin Corey Committee, Cait Trainor, said that contrary to some reports, the British government had simply overturned the initial court ruling without entering an appeal.
“They arbitrarily overturned the decision of the first court; it was Martin Corey and his legal team who had to take legal proceedings to appeal the refusal of the British Secretary of State to implement the decision of the Court,” she said.
“While Martin Corey sat in the reception of the prison with his belongings waiting for his family, the British government underhandedly intervened and blocked his release.”
Mr Corey’s niece, Elaine McConville, who was among those who travelled to Maghaberry in the expectation of her uncle’s release, said her family had been “devasted” by the week’s events.
She said her mother “couldn’t even talk for crying”.
“What they have done on him is a disgrace and what they have put his brothers and sisters through past few days is unbearable,” she said.
The Release Martin Corey Committee said it would be once more lobbying all those concerned with human rights and justice to take action to secure his release.
“We would ask all those who have worked so far to continue and urge people to take a stand against tyranny and oppression.
“The Committee will lobby nationally and internationally. We have to expose the double standards of the British Government to human rights; while they complain and state they oppose human rights abuses in various countries, they in fact themselves are guilty of human rights abuses against people who dissent from British rule in Ireland.
“In the year the British are hosting the Olympics, they show a face to the world of righteousness and morality, the world must now see the truth: British rule in Ireland can only result in the oppression of the Irish people and those with independent thought.
“It must be remembered that Martin Corey is interned with no charge, no trial but on secret allegations by unknown people that the British Government refuse to present.”
Commenting on the developments, eirigi Runai Ginearalta Breandan Mac Cionnaith said: “What has been witnessed over the past three days is nothing short of an unprecedented farce.
“It is a clear case of the British government literally arranging the bench in order to get a decision that it is happy with.
“Any sense of fairness, lack of prejudice or integrity which one is supposed to associate with any system of justice has been totally absent in the Martin Corey case.
“While the responsibility for Martin Corey’s continued internment lies directly with the British government, the Six County judicial system is not without blame either. That system is the same judicial system that upholds injustice through its operation of non-jury Diplock courts.
“That judiciary has this week proven itself to be a willing and integral tool in the implementation of British government policy.”
Mr Mac Cionnaith blamed Sinn Féin and the SDLP who he said had “endorsed and supported cosmetic changes to the justice system” and provided “a smokescreen cover for such blatant injustice”.
“Those parties cannot be allowed to merely dismiss Martin Corey’s continued internment as being the result of ‘British interference in the due process’.
“The judicial system, which has now play its part in Martin Corey’s continued internment, is part of the structures which those parties endorsed and which they heralded as ‘a new beginning’.
“There can be no escape from that fact, however unpalatable that may be for some to admit.”