Ireland: Political prisoner Martin Corey denied justice

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Martin Corey is a 63-year-old man jailed in the six counties of Ireland's north still claimed by Britain. He has been held for three years without trial.

On April 16, 2010, Corey’s house in Lurgan was visited by members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Corey was arrested.

When he asked what the charges were, Corey was told that the police officers “did not know”. All they were told was to arrest Corey.

Corey is a republican who, in his youth, fought against the foreign occupation of his land. During this struggle, he was charged with the murder of two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the forerunner of the PSNI. Corey was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1973.

Corey served just short of the next 19 years behind bars; he was released in June 1992. He did not sign any documents imposing conditions on his release.

Corey returned to Lurgan, where he set up a successful business as the local grave digger, formed a long-term relationship and settled down to a peaceful life.

That was, until his arrest three years ago.

Corey is still in jail and he still does not know what the charges against him are. Corey’s legal team also do not know what the charges are and nor does any judge hearing the case against him.

This is because, according to the British Northern Ireland Office (NIO), he is being held on “Undisclosed or Secret Charges”. A special advocate appointed by the NIO can view the evidence and tell the judge what they can do.

This makes a mockery of the judicial system when a politician, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland who is unelected by people in Ireland's north, can determine a person's freedom. Corey is selectively interned by an unjust British system.

As a prisoner with a life sentence, Corey is entitled to a parole hearing every 12 months. However, since he was arrested in 2010, this has been continually adjourned or not even scheduled.

The conditions Corey is being kept under are a disgrace. Mail has been kept from him for weeks at a time, craft that he has made has been smashed by vindictive prison officers and he has been denied proper medical treatment within a reasonable time.

In May last year, Corey appealed his jailing on the grounds that he had not been charged with any crime nor brought before a judge.

In his verdict on the appeal, Justice Treacy said Corey's human rights had been breached. He ordered Corey to be released immediately and placed no conditions on the release.

Corey returned to Maghaberry Prison to pack his belongings and his family travelled from Lurgan to take him home. While Corey waited in the prison's reception area he was told the then-secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, had ordered him to be returned to his cell.

The NIO had appealed Treacy’s decision, but only after Treacy had boarded a plane and was about to leave the country. With Treacy out of the way, a patsy of the British NIO upheld its appeal and Corey was sent back behind bars.

When Corey’s legal team found out, they immediately launched legal action against the NIO's appeal, but to no avail. Corey finally got to appeal the decision in the High Court on July 11, more than six weeks after Treacy's original decision.

The NIO's appeal was upheld and Corey's case was set to be reheard on November 26. At the rehearing, a panel of three appeals judges upheld the NIO's decision to keep Corey incarcerated.

Corey’s legal team then applied to the High Court for permission to take their case before the Supreme Court in London.

They were confident of winning in the Supreme Court, but in early May, their euphoria was cut short as the appeal was denied without any valid reason being given.

If you look beyond this denial, you will see British intransigence at its best. Denying Corey the right to appeal to the Supreme Court blocks his application to the European Court of Human Rights, as he has not exhausted all domestic avenues.

British politicians can be quick to point the finger about human rights abuses elsewhere in the world, but are quiet when such are abuses are carried out by their own government.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, signed as part of the peace process to end armed conflict in Ireland's north, came with the promise of equality and justice for all. But 15 years on, Corey is one of those still suffering from a great injustice at the hands of a vindictive British government.

The law of the land must prevail. If the British authorities believe Corey is guilty of a crime, then they must charge him and bring him before a court of law, where he has the right to defend himself. Rather, he has been forced to fight an invisible foe in the guise of undisclosed charges.

The time is well passed when Martin Corey should be freed.

[Barry Kearney is a member of the James Connolly Association Australia, Melbourne.]