MARIAN PRICE could be in a British prison in Northern Ireland for the rest of her natural life. Unlike other political prisoners in the North, she has had no trial, no sentence, no release date, nor even a date when the Parole Commission will review her case. Unless the courts intervene, she will only be released by order of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson.
Twice, Price has been arrested under Northern Ireland’s special security laws and brought before what is known as a Diplock Court, where no jury serves. Twice, a judge has ordered that she be released on bail.
Each time, Paterson overruled the judge and ordered Price back to prison. He said that he was revoking her license (parole). But Price was not actually on license. Convicted of bombings in Britain, she received a full royal pardon (the “Royal Prerogative of Mercy“) when she was freed in 1980 because she appeared to be on the brink of death from severe anorexia nervosa. The anorexia was the result of being force-fed more than 300 times when she was on hunger strike in a British prison.
The Northern Ireland Office now says the pardon “cannot be located”–that it has either been lost or shredded. Price’s lawyer Peter Corrigan recently told an overflow public meeting in Belfast that this is the only time in the history of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy that a pardon has gone missing. Monsignor Raymond Murray, the veteran human rights campaigner, said simply, “You can draw your own conclusions.”
Nevertheless, the Parole Commission sided with the Northern Ireland Office and refused to release Price. Her lawyers will be appealing the decision in court.
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PRICE IS being held in conditions designed to break her body and spirit. She has been in solitary confinement for more than 300 days. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture says solitary confinement for more than 15 days amounts to torture.
She is locked in her cell 21 hours a day. There is a camera in the cell. She has been told that it is switched off, but there is no way to know if that is true.
She has no privacy because prison staff constantly goes in and out of her cell. At night, male prison guards open a peephole and shine a light in her face so she can’t sleep. Marian has told relatives she feels like she is “in a zoo.”
Her husband, Jerry McGlinchey, recently told the WBAI show Radio Free Eireann, “My fear is that Marian will slip into a deep depression that it would take her years to come out of. I believe that is what the government intends.”
He previously said that he is “very, very worried” about her health. She has never recovered from the force-feeding. It caused tuberculosis that had to be treated in 2010, and she was due for a checkup when she was arrested. The anorexia has returned, and she suffers from such severe arthritis that she can’t even open her hand. McGlinchey believes that her health will get steadily worse as long as she is in solitary confinement.
Price is a dedicated Irish republican. She believes that it is necessary to wage an armed struggle to end British rule in Ireland.
But what is at stake is much more than Marian Price or her politics. As the Irish civil rights leader Bernadette Devlin McAlsikey told the Belfast meeting, “From the government’s point of view, this is a clear message that no dissent will be tolerated. You challenge the status quo at your peril.”
We can’t depend on the courts to free Marian Price. Each of us needs to help set her free. In the past month, hundreds of people have come to protest meetings in Derry and Belfast.
There is one very simple thing each of us can do today. We can e-mail Owen Paterson firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him to free Marian Price immediately. This may be especially important for those of us who don’t live in Ireland. The British government has often proven very vulnerable to international pressure.
POSTED ON BEHALF OF : SocialistWorker.org
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- Marian Price and the lost document (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)