After almost four years in jail without charge, Irish prisoner of conscience Martin Corey was released from custody on January 15. But he was only freed on condition he stay away from the media and his home town or face a return to jail.
Corey was hidden from members of the press who had gathered outside the Maghaberry jail, in the six counties in Ireland's north still claimed by Britain, on the night of January 15. The 63-year-old was taken out in a blacked-out prison van directly to a train station, where he was released to his lawyer.
A British official said: “The Parole Commissioners have decided to release Martin Corey on a licence that is subject to conditions which are designed to manage the risk they assess him to pose.”
Two conditions are that Corey is banned from media interviews and he must not live in or near his home in Lurgan, County Armagh.
Corey has been in prison since he was ordered to be interned by then-British secretary of state for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward in April 2010. Corey was jailed on the basis of “closed material” — evidence kept secret from the defendant.
Corey's lawyers had been preparing a challenge to his detention in the European court on the basis that he was unable to defend himself against “secret” allegations. Corey has never been told why he was detained or what evidence, if any, there was against him.
Although still officially denied, his jailing is widely seen as a an example of the modern use of internment without trial by Britain.
Release Martin Corey Campaign spokesperson Cait Trainor said: “It is clear the continued imprisonment of Martin Corey was a political embarrassment to the Northern Ireland Office and he was released in a way that would ensure minimum publicity.
“The British government, secretary of state and all those involved in the internment of Martin Corey showed contempt for human rights and were involved in a despotic policy of ruling by decree.”
Other conditions believed to have been imposed on Corey include restrictions on his attendance at certain public and social events.
The Sinn Fein member for west Belfast in the Northern Ireland assembly, Jennifer McCann, said: “[Corey] was held without any due process, he has never been questioned ... about any specific incident and indeed his lawyers have never been able to challenge any of the secret evidence that was bought before the parole commissioners.
“I believe if they had anything to charge Martin Corey with, that they would have done it.”
McCann said Sinn Fein had consistently raised the issue, saying: “The arrest and detention of people without any evidence being presented cannot be justified in any terms.”
[Abridged from Irish Republican News.]