Pressure for the release of Derry republican Tony Taylor has increased following the dropping of a prosecution dating from October 2015 and the removal from her post of British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers, who ordered his internment.
Crown prosecutors this week abandoned a charge against Mr Taylor on the basis that there was not prospect of conviction. The 48-year-old had been arrested by the PSNI in Derry and interrogated over two days about alleged republican activity along with other leading members of the Republican Network for Unity. The arrest took place as Mr Taylor and others were due to lead a protest in Derry city against a PSNI recruitment event in St. Columb’s Park House.
Despite his subsequent release, Mr Taylor was suddenly interned five months later by the British government citing ‘secret evidence’ and ‘national security’. Sent to Maghaberry jail, he wa moved to the jail’s notorious punishment block where has refused medication.
“Our client was unconditionally released by detectives last October pending a report to the PPS [Crown prosecutors]. Having now considered the evidence presented by police, the PPS has concluded that Tony Taylor has no case to answer,” said Mr Taylor’s lawyer, Aiden Carlin.
“Yet the status quo remains. Our client is still in custody on the instructions of former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. There is simply no objective evidence that Tony Taylor has breached the conditions of his licence. Hence, no new charges which could have led to a fair trial and the proper testing of evidence by the defence in court.”
He added: “Tony Taylor’s recall should be a matter of concern for all those with an interest in human rights.”
The RNU said the dropping of the charge confirmed that Mr Taylor had been the victim of “arbitrary detention and the state’s policy of internment”, calling for the new British Direct Ruler in Ireland, James Brokenshire, to reverse Villiers’ decision.
Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that he would be raising the imprisonment of the prominent Derry republican with Mr Brokenshire.
“Tony Taylor was returned to prison on the word of previous British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers without any evidence being presented,” he said.
“The arrest and imprisonment without recourse to due process is a practice that is totally unacceptable and needs to end immediately. I will be.. demanding that Tony Taylor is either released immediately or brought before a court and given due process.”
On Sunday, the Free Tony Taylor Campaign is organising a sponsored walk in support of his release.
Mickey Gallagher from the Free Tony Taylor Campaign called on anyone who is pro-human rights and believes in standing up for civil liberties to attend the sponsored walk.
He said the continued imprisonment of Mr Taylor was having a severe impact on his family. “Tony has a disabled son and it can be difficult looking after him at the best of times never mind what it is like when is father is in prison without charge, evidence or trial,” he said.
“Many people from within Tony’s community, including people who do not share his political beliefs, are behind the campaign to have him released. Sinn Fein, the SDLP, all of the Independent councillors and Eamon McCann from People Before Profit all agree that Tony Taylor should be released immediately.”
The Free Tony Taylor sponsored walk will start close to Sainsbury’s car park on Strand Road in Derry on Sunday, July 17 at 7pm.