A prominent former British MP has hit out at the use of entrapment by MI5 in Ireland and their attempts to criminalise lawful political activity.
Former Labour MP Chris Williamson (pictured) was speaking out after nine Saoradh activists were arrested following raids in both parts of Ireland, and in Britain, where Palestinian activist Dr Issam Hijjawi Bassalat was also arrested.
The ten were remanded to Maghaberry prison after being charged in connection with two meetings of Saoradh in Tyrone. The meetings are understood to have been bugged my MI5 thanks to double agent Dennis McFadden.
“The use of underhand tactics, including entrapment, by MI5 to harass Irish republicans and anti-imperialists are utterly unacceptable and a clear abuse of power,” he said.
“If democracy and the rule of law mean anything, then such attempts to criminalise lawful political activity must be opposed and exposed”.
He criticised the manner in which Dr Bassalat was arrested and charged. He was among those lured to the Saoradh meetings under false pretences by MI5 agent Dennis McFadden, who held the post of Saoradh resource officer.
Dr Bassalat had previously travelled from his home in Scotland to speak at Saoradh events to raise awareness of the Palestinian cause, but this time became was snared by MI5’s sinister agenda.
Charlotte Kates of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, expressed concerns about Dr Bassalat’s detention.
“Issam has been an active campaigner for Palestinian rights for decades, and he has always had a conscious view of the importance of international solidarity,” she said.
“This kind of humanistic, inclusive approach has seen him targeted for MI5 infiltration and persistent targeting, which should concern everyone who cares for human rights and justice.
“Issam has a lot of friends around the world, Palestinian and non-Palestinian, and it’s very difficult to view this case as anything other than an attempt to really chill international solidarity, especially from a progressive, left perspective”, she added.
Among those arrested, charged and held without bail are several members of the Saoradh leadership, including the Saoradh vice-chair Mandy Duffy and its founding member Davy Jordan. The oppression of the traditional republican group came just before Britain moved to renege on peace process commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.
This week, a leading figure in Republican Sinn Féin was also arrested and detained. Gavin MacKenna, a member of the party’s Ard Chomhairle, was arrested by heavily-armed members of the PSNI police in Lurgan as he made his way to work. His family home was also subjected to a heavy-handed raid by the Crown Forces.
“There has been a notable increase in the harassment and intimidation of Irish Republicans across the Occupied Six Counties,” RSF said. “There has also been an increase in the number of stop and searches carried out. This is nothing new for Irish Republicans and will not deter the good work they carry out within their communities.”