Vindictive treatment of John Downey

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The treatment by the PSNI of a Donegal pensioner has been widely condemned after he was seen to be dragged around in handcuffs following his extradition into British jurisdiction last week.

Donegal man John Downey, who is 67 years of age, was refused bail in connection with charges dating from 1972.

Sinn Fein’s Policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly said he had spoken to the PSNI Chief Constable to raise the treatment of Mr Downey at Omagh Court House on Saturday, October 12.

“It’s unacceptable that despite voluntarily presenting himself to the Gardaí for extradition, John Downey was handcuffed and literally manhandled out of Omagh Court House.

“I also challenged the PSNI’s contention that Mr Downey posed a ‘flight risk’ despite the fact he had met all his previous bail conditions and turned up to all court appearances in Ireland and in London.”

Mr Downey is in possession of an ‘on-the-run’ letter, issued in the aftermath of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to resolve potential outstanding prosecutions in connection with the conflict.

Mr Kelly said the British authorities had publicly stated Mr Downey was not wanted in connection with any offence. The issue was aired at a trial following his previous arrest in London in 2014.

“That assertion was tested in the courts and he was subsequently released,” he said. “That judgement should be respected by the British authorities.”

Mr Downey has been newly accused of involvement in an IRA action in August 1972 in which two British soldiers died, as well as a separate explosives charge. Following a lengthy extradition challenge, he handed himself in to Letterkenny Garda Station on Friday.

But Downey’s barrister Michael Duffy said the accused is not a flight risk as he has nowhere else to go.

He told the court: “First of all, this is a 67-year-old man, he’s married with children, there are no issues in relation to this man not complying with all conditions.

“There’s nowhere this man can go, his family are grounded where he lives, and has lived all his married life, he is a man of ill health with chronic conditions, and that should be taken into consideration.

“There is no evidence the accused has committed any actual act in the 47 years since the alleged crime.”

Mr Downey was refused bail. After the hearing, he was dragged from the court to a waiting police van, leading to a scuffle between supporters and PSNI.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald added that the extradition request from the British authorities was “vindictive and bad faith” and an attempt to overturn due process.

“It follows a campaign to introduce an amnesty for British soldiers at a time when the spotlight is on them for their actions. John Downey is a supporter of the peace process over many years. He should be at home with his family in Donegal.”

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