The IRPWA (Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association) has condemned the harassment of republican prisoners following their release from jail in the north of Ireland.
Prisoners released on parole or at the end of their sentence have complained of being subjected to persecution and blanket surveillance. A growing number have been returned to jail on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Earlier this month, IRPWA-supported prisoner Brian Cavlan was released from Maghaberry prison on parole -- but was immediately arrested and charged with breaking his parole conditions, just yards from the gates of the jail.
After being collected at Maghaberry by a close friend, Mr Cavlan had only travelled a matter of yards when the vehicle was surrounded by PSNI police, who seized him and brought him back to prison.
The incident follows that involving another prisoner, Sean McConville, who was found guilty recently of breaching his parole conditions when he was home on parole a few weeks ago.
That parole ruling was made during a prison adjudication which he refused to attend, as a refusal to allow him legal consultation or representation had become the subject of a judicial review.
The IRPWA said it strongly condemned the actions of both the PSNI (formerly RUC) and prison administrators.
“This approach whereby republican prisoners out on parole are harassed and hounded and put under constant surveillance by the RUC, all to ascertain if they are associating with fellow republicans, can only be described as vindictive,” they said.
Meanwhile, other prisoners who have completed their sentence have been returned to jail in what supporters have described as examples of ‘internment by remand’ -- extended detentions without a trial. Prominent republicans Harry Fitzsimmons and Colin Duffy, who were released from similar incarcerations in 2013 and 2012 respectively, were both returned to Maghaberry this week without any fresh evidence being presented against them. Both men were active in a ‘dirty protest’ against prison conditions during their detention at Maghaberry.
The IRPWA said it questioned the impartiality of the police and the ‘close working relationship’ that exists between the PSNI and the prison authorities. They also accused the PSNI of wrongly “compiling and presenting so-called evidence” to be used against prisoners in internal prison adjudications on parole.
They added: “Our thoughts are with Brian Cavlan’s family who had planned a family get together to welcome him home and are now left devastated that he won’t be with them today, and probably won’t be home this Christmas.”