Sunday, 16 March 2014

Stephen Murney – In his own words

On February 24th, Stephen Murney was cleared of all charges laid against him by the PSNI. Here Stephen answers several questions about his arrest, imprisonment and trial and the impact it had on him and his family.

Stephen, could you recount for readers of the éirígí website and for party supporters the background to your arrest and imprisonment?

First of all, I think it’s important to set this all in a proper context.

Despite the claims to the contrary by members of both constitutional nationalist parties in the Six Counties and by the establishment parties in the Free State, very little substantial change has occurred in respect of policing in the North.

The name of the police force may have changed, but let’s not forget that the PSNI is a fully armed force with access to the most modern weaponry. It still operates under a whole raft of very draconian and far-reaching so-called ‘anti-terror’ legislation.

While the titles of police force and the legislation that force has access to may have changed over the years, there is little to differentiate between supposedly modern, reformed policing and that which took place under the RUC and the legislation available to that force in previous decades.

Let’s not forget that two key demands of nationalists in the Six Counties for decades were for a totally unarmed police force and an end to all repressive legislation.

Neither of those two demands has been met.

As is the case across the Six Counties, in the Newry area where I live, harassment of political activists and their families and friends has continued unabated. Stop and searches occur on an almost daily basis, house raids are a regular occurrence.

My own home had been raided by the PSNI several times over the years under legislation such as the Terror Act 2000. I was also subjected to dozens of stop-and searches.

I and other members of the party had started to record and collate all those incidents of PSNI harassment of activists and members of the general public in the Newry area. It is true that I did photograph members of the PSNI when they were carrying out stop and searches or when they were harassing people in general. I also photographed and recorded the PSNI’s heavy-handed response to various pickets and public protests in Newry.

Indeed, it’s also worth pointing out that on one occasion the photos I had taken were used by a defence solicitor to totally repudiate and discredit statements made by PSNI personnel during the trial of a local man accused of assault on the PSNI.

I mainly used those various photographs to accompany press releases which were sent to local newspapers or to the éirígí website to highlight the abuse of powers by the PSNI.

I was also documenting and recording these cases, as well as PSNI harassment of myself, for the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) based in Belfast. CAJ is an independent human rights organisation with a cross-community membership established in 1981 and it lobbies and campaigns on a broad range of human rights issues. It regularly submits report to the UN and other international bodies.

Indeed, a CAJ report called ‘Still Part Of Life Here?’ was published in November 2012, just before my arrest. It may seem ironic now, but that report included details of oppressive policing in the Newry area that I had submitted to them.

So it’s against that backdrop that one needs to view my arrest.

Quite obviously, the PSNI in the Newry area took exception to the frequent adverse coverage of their actions in the local papers which I was securing through my role as PRO for the party in the town.

Added to that was the fact that, through my reporting of incidents to CAJ, the PSNI’s actions were coming under the spotlight of a far wider, international audience.

When I was charged, the charges mainly related to those photographs. The other charges regarding my old band uniforms and my son’s toy guns, which the PSNI claimed to be ‘items for use in terrorist purposes’, were added as ‘window-dressing’ to make their case appear stronger than it actually was.

You initially were granted bail, which you refused to accept: can you explain why?

While the High Court in Belfast granted bail, it should be remembered that the conditions were very draconian. Those conditions included:
  • A ban on living with my partner and child at our home in Newry
  • A requirement that I reside at a location vetted by the PSNI at least five miles from Newry
  • A ban on entering the city of Newry for any purpose including visits to the doctor – even if advanced notice of such visits were supplied to the PSNI.
  • A ban on attending any meetings or other events of a political nature.
  • A strict curfew that would require me to remain within the specified address between the hours of 7pm and 10am.
  • A requirement that I wear an electronic tagging device at all times.
  • A requirement that I reported daily to Newtownhamilton PSNI barracks which is located a further twelve miles from my bail address.

Neither I nor my partner drives so even seeing each other would have been difficult under those conditions.

We certainly could not have had anything that came close to the normal family life we had been used to.

The extreme bail conditions which the court sought to impose upon me amounted to a form of collective punishment for my partner, children and wider family.

They were also clearly designed to ‘criminalise’ and punish me for legitimate political activism.

I have no doubt that, had I accepted those bail conditions, I would have breached them through no fault of my own as the conditions, as a whole, were designed in such a way to make it impossible for me to avoid breaking them.

For example, I receive regular medical treatment. If I had to see my doctor urgently and went to his surgery in Newry, I would have been classed as having breached the bail conditions.

You have a young family. How did they handle the whole situation of seeing you in prison?

The impact was far greater upon my family than any effect it had on me.

My partner was left at home with the children to raise and look after.

My youngest son, who was 6 at the time of my arrest, was very visibly shaken and terrified when heavily armed PSNI personnel smashed in the front door of our home at 6am, handcuffed me and took me away that morning. On visits to the gaol, he would become very stressed when it was time to leave. Experiences like can have far-reaching effects for any young child.

Additionally, and although my partner, parents and the rest of my family knew there was no substance to the PSNI charges, they had no idea how long I would be held for. That simple fact alone caused them a lot of stress and anxiety.

You were obviously aware of the campaign for your release on the outside. What was your reaction to that?

Members of my family, party comrades in éirígí and friends would visit me frequently so I was kept up to date with events on the outside. I certainly hadn’t expected a campaign to be organised on my behalf but it is good to know that others also knew that I was totally innocent and that they were continuously prepared to say so publicly.

I believe that the campaign played a great part in keeping up the spirits and morale of my family. It gave them strength and encouragement and it ensured that they did not feel isolated.

Of course, when there were successful public events and protests on the outside it raised spirits and boosted morale for everyone.

I remember we were out in the exercise yard in August 2013 and we received word that several thousand people were taking part in a massive Anti-Internment march in Belfast which had been organised jointly by several organisations including éirígí. I'll never forget the feeling on the wing when we heard about the turnout.

In the run-up to and during your trial, how did you feel? Were you confident that you would be released?

My comrades in éirígí had been regularly liaising with my legal team on the outside and were repeatedly stressing to them their view that the charges against me were designed as a test-case which, if the PSNI and prosecution were successful, would have had far-reaching implications for many political and other activists.

They also pointed out that the charges against me were at variance with the European Convention of Human Rights.

Article 10 of the Convention states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority.”

As local PRO for éirígí in Newry, I had clearly held opinions and political views, and the photographs which I had used to accompany press releases were clearly meant to impart information and to allow others to receive that information.

However, at the time of my initial arrest, I had no idea as to how far-reaching the charges against me could be in terms of possible future prosecutions of others.

Certainly, that whole crux of the case was made clear by my legal team and by those party members liaising with them in the run-up to and during the trial, and was very ably articulated by my barrister – much to the repeated frustration of the prosecuting counsel!

Of the 107 photographs which the prosecution had based their case upon, every one had either been used to accompany press releases to local media outlets, articles on the party website, or were used to confirm misuse of powers by the PSNI during stop and searches.

The PSNI/prosecution argument was that even if a political activist or other member of the public believes he or she is being harassed by police, anti-terrorism legislation should be construed in a way to make it unjustifiable for such a person to publish or even to take photographs of those PSNI personnel. They even argued that while it was acceptable (to them) for press photographers to take and possess pictures of PSNI personnel, it was not justifiable for others to do so.

As my defence argued, it is difficult to see how such an interpretation could be compatible with the Article 10 of the ECHR.

To be honest, I had no idea what way the judge was going to decide.

The court eventually ruled, after several days of deliberation, that the PSNI and prosecution service cannot apply one different standard of law to press or media photographers and another standard to political activists when it comes to recording and documenting the conduct of the PSNI.

According to my legal team and party members, that is a very important and significant decision which will prevent the PSNI taking possible similar actions against other people in the future. Apparently, my case will be cited as case-law.

For me, the decision was complete vindication that I had been acting totally within my rights to photograph and record oppressive policing.

I was declared innocent. That is exactly what I, my family, party comrades and supporters had all been saying since the day I was first arrested. But it took 14 months of my life for a court to say the same thing.

How did it feel to hear you were free to go from the court?

It was obviously a relief and I was happy that I was going home to my family and community for good.

However I couldn’t help but feel angry at essentially being interned by remand in Maghaberry for 14 months despite being innocent the whole time.

Was it strange for you to see your face and name on walls since your release?

Shortly after my release, I was walking through Newry and on almost every wall there was a poster with my face on it. I was also walking down the Falls Road in Belfast and there was a mural of me on the International Wall. I have to say it was a bit strange to see those things but I recognise it was all part of the campaign carried on by my party comrades and friends who all did some great work for me and my family.

What’s your plans for the future and has the whole experience reinforced your resolve as a republican?

I intend to continue with my political activism and I have already re-involved myself with éirígí.

The past 14/15 months have, if anything, reinforced my view that the supposed changes which have taken place in the Six Counties during the last decade and a half have been largely cosmetic.

Peel back that cosmetic veneer and you will find a state that still is under British control, where people’s lives are still subjected to repressive policing and draconian laws; a state that is a failure both politically and economically.

It has helped me learn a lot about Republican prison struggle and what prison life for Republicans entails, particularly when faced with an oppressive and restrictive regime such as the one in place in Maghaberry where the brutal and inhumane practice of strip-searching of prisoners still take place as a matter of routine.

It is also important to emphasise that I am not the only victim of malicious persecution and prosecution by the PSNI.

There are other cases of injustice which are still ongoing and it’s very important that they are also publicly highlighted and supported. I would intend to assist in that.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

éirígí address community issues in Newry

Safety issues highlighted at Camlough Road

The socialist republican party, éirígí, have been in contact with local statutory agencies to  raise a number of health and safety issues affecting local residents in the Derrybeg and Carnagat areas of Newry.

éirígí's Newry spokesperson Stephen Murney said that a number of residents in the Derrybeg and Carnagat areas have recently approached party members in an effort to resolve a number of matters.

He explained, “In one instance the cover of a lamppost situated on the Camlough Road was deliberately removed by some clearly anti-social person or persons which left the electrical circuits dangerously exposed.

“Those who did this were not only highly irresponsible but they clearly had no thought or concern for their own safety. Moreover, those responsible showed absolutely no consideration for the safety of local residents, particularly young children, in the immediate area.

“Had any young child, through curiosity, came into contact with the exposed electrical circuits then the outcome could have resulted in very serious injury or even death.”

Murney continued “Concerns were also raised regarding the unsafe condition of a large manhole, also on the Camlough Road, where very clear gaps have developed in the road surface around it. Each time a vehicle passes over this, the manhole cover actually is lifting from the ground. This could not only cause damage to vehicles but it also poses a danger to other motorists and pedestrians.

“I contacted the relevant agencies on Thursday to make them aware of these issues in order to have the necessary repairs made. I can report that Roads Service are already taking steps to carry out remedial work at the manhole and the street lighting division are to provide a new secure cover to the lamppost.”

Exclusive interview with Stephen Murney - The Five Demands

An exclusive interview with éirígí activist and recently released Republican prisoner which appeared in the Italian based political outlet The Five Demands

Stephen Murney large


Stephen is a 30 year old political activist. In his role as an active member of socialist republican party, éirígí, he had reported on several occasions the actions of the PSNI  in the Newry area, where he lives and works. One of the greatest concerns raised by Stephen was the repeated stop-and- search policy of the PSNI, this is a common practice to ‘monitor, humiliate and demoralise Irish Republicans and state opponents in the North’.
On November 28th 2012, Murney was taken from his home by the police to the Antrim detention centre where he faced several rounds of interrogations.
On December  1st, the activist was moved to Maghaberry where he remained for 14 months. Once charges were formalized, Stephen bore a lengthy process for three allegations:
  • Collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists.
  • Distributing information likely to be of use to terrorists.
  • Having articles likely to be of use to terrorists.
The first two charges were referring to the numerous photos of commemorations, protests and meetings which Murney had attended along with many others. Those photos mainly consisted of evidence of police harassment of local people in the Newry area.
The third claimed that ‘suspicious items’ were found at Murney’s home. In particular police stressed how some clothes (which are later found to be part of a uniform of a local Republican Flute band, in which there are numerous pictures of him marching in a perfectly legal and legitimate manner) and two toy ns might be used for terrorist purposes.
The detention of Stephen Murney , considered illegal and as another facet of political policing, by Republicans, led to a huge mobilization on social media (Free Stephen Murney page reached a thousand ‘likes’ in a few days) and on the streets where many rallies were held.
After 14 months in jail awaiting the verdict (according to the interment by remand  terms), Murney was found innocent and was immediately freed . Just out he said: ‘My imprisonment for the past 14 months was as a direct result of my political views and my membership of éirígí – an open and legitimate political party.’


F.B. First of all, how do you feel after a 14 months detention?
S.M. To be honest, the impact was far greater upon my family than any effect it had on me. My partner was left at home with three kids to raise. My youngest son, who was 6 at the time of my arrest, was very visibly shaken and terrified when heavily armed PSNI personnel smashed in the front door of our home at 6am, handcuffed me and took me away. Incidents like that can be very traumatic experiences for any young child.
Additionally, and although my partner, parents and the rest of my family knew there was no substance to the PSNI charges, they had no idea  how long I would be held for. That simple fact alone caused them a lot of stress.
With  regards to the effect it had on me, it has helped me learn a lot about Republican prison struggle and what prison life for Republicans entails, particularly when faced with an oppressive and restrictive regime such as the one in place in Maghaberry.
F.B. Let’s start from the beginning. The PSNI arrested you with three different allegations to which they will add others. In short, you have been accused of providing information to ‘terrorists’ otherwise the IRA. Do you consider that a simple miscarriage of justice or a proper judicial persecution?
S.M. I was initially charged with what the PSNI called information likely to be of use to terrorists, distributing information likely to be of use to terrorists and having articles likely to be of use to terrorists. It worth pointing out that these were photographs which had accompanied party press releases to the media.
On February 20, 2013, the PSNI removed me from Maghaberry Prison and took me back to Antrim interrogation centre for further ‘questioning’. The following day the British state levelled additional charges against me, in a move widely seen as an attempt to bolster the very weak case.
The new charges included one of ‘possession of articles for use in terror’ and ‘aiding and abetting in criminal damage to property owned by persons unknown’. The former charge relate to a single photograph allegedly recovered from my computer which I had already been charged with possessing. The later charge related to the possession of a number of political stencils.
From the outset I and my legal team made it clear that there no case for me to answer, that I was innocent of these charges yet I still spent 14 months in prison in what the British “justice system” would call “due process”.
‘Internment by remand’ is merely a more subtle and insidious form of internment. It is not a new invention given that, as a process, ‘internment by remand’ commenced as a planned strategy in the late 1970s. Britain would claim that this was part of a legitimate legal process as, unlike internment without trial, persons faced charges, court appearances and the possibility of a conviction at trial on some far off future date. Furthermore, as this strategy of ‘internment by remand’ also involves the prosecution service, the judiciary, and the wider legal system, Britain could respond to critics of the system and deflect justifiable censure by claiming that ‘due process must take its course’.
That, of course, was the illusion.
F.B. You probably visited Maghaberry  in your role of activist before your incarceration. But what were your first impressions of the prison when you were transferred there, as a prisoner?
S.M. Before I was interned I was involved campaigns to defend the human rights of political prisoners and that entailed going to visit some of them in Maghaberry. Little did I know that as a result of my activism I would end up amongst them in Maghaberry as a political prisoner.
When I first entered the Republican wing on Roe 4 the first thing that hit me was the smell. It hit me like a brick wall. Just a fortnight beforehand, Republican prisoners had just ended a “dirty protest” lasting 18 months. When I was first placed in my cell there was still human excrement on the walls from the protest and it was several months before the prison administration decided to clean it off.
I had often heard the stories of what it was like in Roe House but nothing prepared me for the vindictiveness of the screws and the extremely restrictive regime that was in place. Controlled movement remains in place. At times only one prisoner is allowed onto the landing at a time. If you need to go to the shower, several screws escort you to the shower room. It’s the same if you need to go to the laundry room or back to your cell. Then we have the isolation of Republican prisoners in which some prisoners are selectively targeted and placed in isolation by themselves. When in isolation they have no contact with any other prisoners and are locked up 23 hours a day. Gavin Coyle has been held in isolation for a number of years now and this is nothing more than a form of psychological torture. And of course the strip searching of Republican Prisoners is still in place despite the advances in technology.
F.B. Long Kesh and Maghaberry. Past and present. Do you really think that prison conditions in Maghaberry are as drastic as those which were in Long Kesh? I was wondering if you could describe a typical day as a Maghaberry prisoner on a Republican landing.
S.M. A typical day would entail wakening up to the sound of alarm bells ringing at 7am. This would be after a sleepless night due to the screws banging and kicking your cell door, lifting the flap and shining a torch in your face before slamming the flap shut. This would happen throughout the night so you wouldn’t get much sleep.
The cell doors would then be opened at around 8.15, one at a time ( only 3 prisoners are allowed on the landing at any given time and sometimes just one) and you would then make your way to the canteen in which your are locked in. Basically rather than being locked in your cell all day you are locked in a larger room all day.
If you wanted to go back to your cell then the controlled movement kicks in again. You have to press a button for the screws to let you out of the canteen. Then you walk to the slider and step in between the grills. When the screws eventually open the grills you step onto the landing. You are then escorted by up to 3 screws to your cell. If you are staying in your cell the door is slammed behind you and locked. If you are simply getting something from your cell such as a newspaper etc then the screws stand at your door and watch you, then you have to go through the whole process again to get back to the canteen and once again locked in there.
You have to go through the same process if you want to go to the shower or the laundry room. It’s very restrictive and unnecessary.
While it’s not the same as Long Kesh there are similarities.
When I was interned in Maghaberry i read a book called “Hard Time” by Raymond Murray, which was about the women prisoners being held at the time. There was a page about strip searching and controlled movement and the similarities were shocking.
Here’s a short extract from the book:
“Male officers dressed in riot gear with batons and shields stood by….the prisoners were seized and dragged to the floor; their faces pushed tightly into the ground so that they could not see and their mouths were covered to stifle their screams. They were then stripped naked.”
Any Republican prisoner who has been in Maghaberry in recent times can relate to this description of the forced strip searches even though this account occurred decades ago.
Similarly in the same book there is a description of the controlled movement that the women Republican Prisoners were subjected to:
“There was severe restriction on movement. Once the prisoners left the cells and the bathroom area and entered the association and kitchen area they were cut off by a grill and could not re-enter. Similarly for outside recreation in the yard, the choice lay between being locked in the cell or staying outside whatever the weather.”
Bear in mind these are descriptions of the conditions in the mid 1980s
The resemblance between the strip searching and controlled movement that took place decades ago and the  conditions in use today is very striking.
This shows how unwilling the prison administration is unwilling to move forward to help create a conflict free environment which is what the Republican prisoners envisage.
F.B. Something that really struck me while I was reading your own dramatic description of the practice of strip searches in Maghaberry (description shown below) was the absolute futility of the search.  How do you maintain your political conviction in a place designed to be so oppressive and humiliating?
S.M. Strip searching of Republican Prisoners has been taking place for decades, as a child a remember taking part in a massive protest rally and i was holding a poster calling for an end to the strip searching of women Republican prisoners in Maghaberry at the time.
Today little has changed despite the advances in technology. The forced strip searching that takes place in Maghaberry today is still brutal, humiliating and very degrading.
I was forcefully stripped between 20-30 times during my internment and other Republican prisoners have endured it many more times. The technology, the BOSS chair, is in the prison and could put an end to this draconian practice, but the prison administration for their own vindictive reasons won’t use it for prisoners entering or leaving the prison.
F.B. I noticed you built strong relationships while in prison. What is the relationship between republican prisoners in Maghaberry? Could you talk about the importance of engaging in solidarity with other political prisoners?
S.M. I made some very good friends while I was in Maghaberry, some of them I knew beforehand from campaigning for them. The camaraderie and morale among the men is high despite the circumstances with which they are faced. I left Maghaberry knowing that I have developed, what will be, lifelong friendships. It’s important that people show solidarity and support with the Republican prisoners, even simple things like sending a letter or a card makes a difference to them.
F.B. After your arrest,  the mobilization of the republican movement was very quick to your cause and it has raised awareness among the public opinion on your case and cases similar. How important was the external pressure on the decision to give you back your freedom?
S.M. The main thing about people mobilising on the outside is to create awareness about what is happening. Constitutional nationalist parties try to portray the six-counties as a “normal society” when in fact it is far from normal. Many of the old repressive injustices remain including internment, political policing, Diplock courts and ongoing MI5/British military activity.
It’s important for people to expose the reality of what is happening in the North.
F.B.  If you could give a message to whoever it was in MI5 or the British establishment, that directed your arrest what would you say?
S.M. The agencies  responsible for my arrest and internment are the same agencies who have been trying to break the resolve and determination of Republicans for decades using those very same means and methods. They failed in the past and they will fail today.
F.B. You have taken issue many times with the PSNI policy of stop and search, do you believe that this system works in the states favor in any way, or does it serve to highlight the political nature still apparent in policing in the north?
S.M. The stop and search powers are used for ‘dragnet’ low level intelligence gathering exercises and general intimidation and harassment. When the PSNI are targeting people using these powers simply because of that persons political beliefs that that is simply political policing which is very much still a part of British policing in the six-counties.
F.B. éirígí, the party you joined, attitudes towards the armed struggle is often ambivalent. What is your personal opinion?
S.M. As a party, éirígí is far from ambivalent regarding armed struggle and that has been made clear repeatedly. I believe that we need to be honest about the position in which Republicanism finds itself today. The Republican struggle is currently in a fractured and weakened state, there is no denying that fact. On numerous times since éirígí were formed we have made our position clear and have given our analysis on the way forward.

Murney account of his strip-searches

‘ this point I made it known that I would not be complying with the strip-search as it was degrading and humiliating for prisoners. I was then taken and placed in a ‘holding cell’ and informed that I had 15 minutes to rethink my decision. This ‘reflection period’ is solely designed as a psychological ploy to strike fear and worry into prisoners as they wait for what lies ahead.
…the screw standing in front of me grabs me by the face with both his hands while, simultaneously, the two screws each side of me grab my arms and stretch them outright forcing me to stand in a crucifix position.
Both my wrists are forcibly twisted and bent backwards, causing extreme pain and discomfort. I am forced onto my knees. As the screw in front pushes my face into the ground, the screw behind me then pulls both my legs from under me. I am now being held on the ground still in a crucifix position by four screws. I am forcibly held down with my face pushed into the ground. Both my legs are being held by two screws.
My arms are still outstretched with both my wrists twisted and bent in an almost impossible position. While I am held in this position my jumper is forcefully pulled off and thrown into the corner, my shoes and socks are the pulled off, next my jeans are very forcefully yanked down in a manner, which clearly, is only used to inflict pain on the prisoner.
Lastly my underwear is pulled down. I am now lying on the floor of the cell completely naked, humiliated and degraded. My clothes are lying in the corner of the cell. My face is throbbing, my wrists are aching and, while I am lying there naked, those responsible stand towering above me…’

Monday, 10 March 2014

éirígí's Stephen Murney on Radio Free Eireann

An interview with recently released Republican prisoner, Stephen Murney, on Radio Free Eireann in America. He explains the background to his case and the campaign of state harassment that led to his arrest and imprisonment. He discusses not only his case but internment in general and the fact that some people in Maghaberry have been interned for 3-4 years, while explaining the conditions Republican prisoners endure in Maghaberry such as forced strip searches, controlled movement and isolation of Republican prisoners.

Here's a link to the show it's about 27 minutes in

Friday, 7 March 2014

éirígí’s Stephen Murney Cleared of all ‘Terrorism’ Charges

The PSNI and prosecution service stand accused of operating a system of ‘internment by remand’ after Stephen Murney, a member of the socialist republican party éirígí, was cleared of all charges alleging that he took photographs of PSNI personnel for “terrorist” purposes.

Stephen Murney had faced a number of charges related to taking photographs of PSNI personnel during stop and search operations, public protests, and other incidents. He had been detained in Maghaberry prison for the past 14 months.

Until his arrest and imprisonment in 2012, Stephen Murney held the position of local Public Relations Officer for éirígí in the Newry and Mourne area. The photographs were taken by him in that capacity in order to record, document and publicise PSNI misuse of their powers.

Speaking after his acquittal and release, Stephen Murney said, “My imprisonment for the past 14 months was as a direct result of my political views and my membership of éirígí – an open and legitimate political party.

“Those charges, of which I have been found to be innocent, were brought against me by the PSNI who objected to fact that I recorded, documented and publicised PSNI personnel abusing the human and civil rights of citizens in the Newry area.

“Even though it was clear from the very outset that these charges were completely without substance, both the PSNI and prosecution service have persisted with a legalised charade which resulted in my imprisonment from December 2012. There is no other way of describing that charade except as ‘internment by remand’.

“I intend to continue with my activism on behalf of éirígí.”

éirígí’s general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, who attended the trial, said, “From the outset, we have said that the charges against our party comrade were nothing more than a spurious means to remove a committed and dedicated political activist from his family and his community. In short, Stephen’s imprisonment has been tantamount to ‘internment by remand’.

“Stephen’s case also highlights, yet again, the false claims made by constitutional nationalist parties in the Six Counties. This case clearly epitomises the reality of modern political policing.

“Had the PSNI and prosecution service been successful in their action against Stephen, it is very evident that this case would have had profound implications in relation to Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 10 states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. That right includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by state authorities.

“Stephen’s arrest and imprisonment was a blatant but crude attempt at political censorship and the open suppression of legitimately-held political opinions in direct contravention of those Article 10 rights.

“In that regard, this case is strongly reminiscent of the type of charges brought by RUC against political activists and others under the old and internationally discredited Special Powers Act.

“Had the PSNI and prosecution service succeeded in this case, I have no doubt that it would have led to the arrests of other political activists and to possible gagging orders on political publications as a first step towards an outright ban on éirígí as a political party.”

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