No compassion for dying prisoner

Republican News. The Life Sentence Review Commission has refused release of critically ill republican prisoner on compassionate grounds as a growing human rights campaign continues to demand his release

The reason given by the commissioners was that he was “a danger to the public”.  Mr Lillis was told he would have to serve the rest of his original life sentence at HMP Maghaberry.

The decision shocked his partner and supporters, who bravely staged a four-day hunger protest in Belfast and Derry in an attempt to secure his release.  Mr Lillis himself is reported to have experienced a further decline in his health since Tuesday’s announcement.

Sinn Fein has said the decision was “wrong” and have urged Six-County ‘Justice Minister’ David Ford to act.

As a former IRA political prisoner, Mr Lillis had his release licence revoked two year ago.  Charges against him were dropped after he was considered to ill to face trial.  Despite the progressive deterioration in his illness, a chronic disease of the musculo-skeletal system, the commission found no room for compassion for the prisoner.  Eating only with the help of a stomach tube, Mr Lillis is now facing a lonely death inside the notorious jail’s hospital wing.

Sinn Fein’s Jennifer McCann has reiterated her call for Mr Lillis’s release on “humanitarian grounds”.

“This man is seriously ill, too ill indeed to stand trial. How can someone be a danger to the public when they are unfit to attend a court?”, she asked.

The commission is due to discuss Mr Lillis’s medical condition, but Ms McCann said it was feared this would not be until late August. His partner, Roisin Lynch, fears her emaciated and suffering partner may not live long enough to know the result.

Sinn Fein’s MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, said the Six-County Justice Minister had stated that he was “awaiting legal advice” on this case.

“This advice needs to come as a matter of urgency,” he said.

“Brendan Lillis is currently critically ill, to ill to stand trial. He is currently 5stone 5lbs in weight and while this legal advice is awaited his health could deteriorate further.

“The continued imprisonment of Brendan Lillis does not serve the public interest and he should be released now on humanitarian grounds.”

Republicans staged a 72 hour fast at Free Derry Corner in Derry and and in the heart of Andersonstown in west Belfast in support of the campaign to have the terminally ill prisoner released.

Tents were pitched in west Belfast on Thursday evening and the protesters remained there until Monday morning.

Although a range of republican and nationalist organisations have supported the campaign, Mr Lillis and his campaign have been portrayed in the media as ‘dissident’.  That label which has been rejected by the campaign, which has focussed on the human rights of a dying man subjected to a cruel British internment.

A spokesperson for the campaign said it was ironic that the situation at Maghaberry had arisen on the 30th anniversary of 1981, when ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike in Long Kesh.

“British intransigence in 1981 meant 10 men starving themselves to death for better conditions for Irish Republicans in British gaols.

“Thirty years on an Irish man who hasn’t a choice finds himself being effectively starved to death by the British government’s apathy towards anyone who could be construed as an Irish Republican.”

The family of Bobby Sands, who died on hunger strike in 1981, added their voices to calls for Mr Lillis’s release.

“Brendan Lillis is dying in Maghaberry Prison because of the same refusal of government authorities to govern with humanity, compassion, respect for human dignity and in compliance with International Human Rights standards and obligations,” they said.

“The 1998 Agreement promised a Human Rights framework and Bill of Rights to ensure people here would never again be deemed ineligible for protection of their rights because of their politics or actions.”

Republican activists of different parties and organisations united in Dublin today to hold a protest. They held placards and distribute leaflets to those entering and leaving the offices of the ‘Northern Ireland’ Tourist Board on Suffolk Street.

Further protests are due to take place in Dublin daily, while other protests are also due to take place in London, Scotland and Italy on Mr Lillis’s behalf.

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