Torture victim sues over treatment
Torture victim sues over treatment


The last man to receive the death penalty in the Six Counties has begun an action against the British government for using torture to extract a false confession from him.

British paratroopers used waterboarding torture techniques against Liam Holden to force him to falsely confess to an attack on a British soldier.

The High Court in Belfast heard details of how he was hooded and had a gun pointed at his head before being forced to admit to a shooting 50 years ago.

Mr Holden, from Ballymurphy in Belfast, was the last person in the north of ireland to be sentenced to hang by the British judicial system. His death penalty was commuted to life in prison before a 40-year fight to clear his name resulted in his conviction being quashed in 2012.

After five decades of campaigning for truth and justice, he has already been awarded damages for losses suffered due to the miscarriage of justice. He is now taking a case against the British Ministry of Defence for illegal acts in public office, assault, battery and torture.

A teenage chef in 1972 (pictured), he was one of the ‘Hooded Men’ who were covered with a hood and brought to the British military post at Blackmountain, where members of the Parachute Regiment tortured detainees.

British soldiers pinned him to the floor and placed a wet folded towel over his face, the court heard. Mr Holden said: “They started pouring a bucket of water slowly through the towel.

“The first thing I felt was the cold, then trying to breath and then sucking water in through my mouth and up my nose.

“It was like you were just drowning.”

He described being revived and slapped about the face while soldiers held him by the armpits.

Four torture sessions were carried out on him before he was dragged out and taken to a loyalist area of Belfast.

“While we were driving one of the soldiers was tapping my knee with a gun, saying ‘This is for you’,” he recalled.

“They took me to Glencairn, a notorious spot for Catholics being found shot dead.

“They took me out of the car and brought me into a field, put a gun to my head and said if I didn’t admit to shooting the soldier they would shoot me.”

Mr Holden then ‘admitted’ shooting the soldier, Private Frank Bell, on 17 September 1972.

“After that I gave my statement that I shot the soldier, made a cock and bull story about where I shot him from, where I got the weapon, where I dumped the weapon and how I got away.”

Notes made about Mr Holden’s interrogation were burnt before he stood trial as part of efforts to conceal his unlawful arrest.

Dealing with the issue of misfeasance in public office, his barrister said that the soldiers had used their powers for wrong and ulterior motives.

“They wanted to get a conviction at all costs, and they knew they needed to conceal the truth from the lawyers and the court to do so,” he said.

“The plan which was devised and implemented, was one of considerable cunning, and resulted in a man being sentenced to death.”

Last month, the British Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the PSNI police to refuse to investigate the torture of the Hooded Men was illegal. The hearing continues.

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