A Palestinian doctor and political activist has been charged under the “Terrorism Act”, alongside nine Irish republicans as part of a major Crown Forces operation to imprison leading members of the Saoradh political party.
Issam Hijjawi was charged in Belfast on Tuesday, as was Tyrone republican and Saoradh founding member Davy Jordan, bringing to ten the number now behind bars in connection with ‘Operation Arbacia’.
Dr Hijjawi is an NHS general practice doctor who previously chaired the Palestinian Society in Scotland and has addressed the Scottish Parliament.
In court on Tuesday, a defence lawyer said his client had been “pestered” to attend and address a public meeting for an exclusively political purpose, and said that his client had been entrapped by an MI5 agent. He noted that he had addressed a number of political groups on a number of issues “in an entirely peaceful and democratic way” and attended the meeting in Omagh to give an update and political analysis on the current situation in Palestine.
Dr Hijjawi previously addressed the Saoradh Ard Fheis in Newry last November (pictured). During his talk, he spoke of being approached on a number of occasions by MI5 because of “what they called my Irish connection, ironically admitting the parallel between the Palestinian and Irish causes”.
A defence lawyer for Mr Jordan also said that his client had been lured to attend the meetings under false pretences. He raised questions about recordings allegedly made by MI5 at two meetings organised by the MI5 double agent, Dennis McFadden.
British forces equate Saoradh with the New IRA in the same manner Sinn Fein was once treated as being equivalent to the Provisional IRA. The operation which targeted Saoradh is named after a spiny sea-urchin which resembles the Saoradh logo and the Irish republican ‘Sunburst’ flag.
The operation involved the Gardai police in the 26 Counties working closely with MI5, a point which raises fresh questions over the independence of policing in the South. A former chief in the RUC (now PSNI) intelligence division, Drew Harris, is the current Garda Commissioner.
“Genuine journalists may rightly ask the Free State administration, have they changed policy and now openly permit MI5 and/or MI6 to operate within their supposed jurisdiction,” Saoradh said in a statement. “The reality is that MI5 direct and control both the PSNI and the Gardaí, that is the real story here.”
They also said “sensationalist, Kitsonesque” news reports in the media were being compliant with an agenda set by MI5. “Paid perjurors, manufactured evidence, circumstantial evidence, innuendo and ‘bad character’ insinuations” had resulted in the internment by remand of their comrades, they said.
NO TO PRISON UNIFORM
Since being remanded to Hydebank jail on Monday, Sharon Jordan and Mandy Duffy, both senior Saoradh figures, have been put into quarantine on the basis of Covid 19 procedures, a process used to “dehumanise and degrade” them and make them wear prison clothing, Saoradh said.
“Both Sharon and Mandy were arrested by Crown Forces on Tuesday 18th August. They were interrogated at Musgrave Street Barracks for five days, and were brought before a British judge the next day and remanded.
“Since being remanded they have been refused any access to clothes left in for them by their families.
“They have been told that they will not be given a change of clothes for 14 days, nor will they be allowed to wash these clothes. In addition they have been denied acceptable access to shower facilities and have deliberately been denied food also.
“When challenging the jail administration regarding their clothes being denied to them, the jail attempted to give them “jail issue” clothing - in other words a uniform. Both women, as Republican Prisoners, refused to wear the prison uniform.”
The party called on the Hydebank jail administration to remove their restrictions regarding access to fresh, clean and new clothes provided by family and/or friends as per the usual arrangements.
“Republican Prisoners will NEVER wear prison uniform, regardless of how it is termed by MI5-directed governors,” they said. “Furthermore, any escalation in terms of protest action will be the responsibility of the gaol administration alone.”