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Louth man’s jail conditions getting worse, expert says

July 27, 2010


By Brónagh Murphy

The family of a Faughart man being held in a Lithuanian jail claim his conditions continue to violate human rights laws, despite criticism of the prison regime by both the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (ECPT) and the European Court of Human Rights.

Michael Campbell has been held on remand in Lukiskes prison in Vilnius since he was arrested with his wife, Fiona Duffy, in January 2008 during a sting operation that involved MI5, Gardaí and Lithuanian police.

Duffy was held for four months before being released unconditionally and allowed to return to Ireland.  Prosecutors allege Campbell was attempting to procure weapons for the Real IRA. Campbell denies the charge, saying he travelled to Vilnius to purchase counterfeit cigarettes and that he is the victim of a conspiracy by British and Lithuanian Intelligence services.

Lithuanian authorities have continually refused Campbell any visits and he has not been seen by any member of his family in the last thirty months.  His legal visits are also restricted and evidence of abuse of process in relation to his trial has been uncovered by his lawyer, Inga Botyriene, and confirmed by the under-mentioned Professor Rod Morgan.

In January The Examiner reported that conditions in Lukiskes prison were found to be ‘inhuman and degrading’ by Professor Rod Morgan, an independent expert in criminal justice and the former head of Britain’s Youth Justice Board, who had inspected the prison.

Professor Morgan’s report was consistent with the findings of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), which had carried out an inspection of the jail a year earlier.

Professor Morgan returned to the jail in May of this year.  Although this time he was refused permission to fully inspect the facility, he met with Campbell in his cell.  Afterwards Professor Morgan said that not only had conditions not improved, but that rising prisoner numbers and budget constraints had actually considerably worsened the situation.

Campbell’s trial began in August 2009 and court sits for just one or two days a month.  Dates that have been scheduled indicate that the trial will continue well into next year.

According to his family, Campbell has been suffering from ill health in recent weeks and needed medical treatment after a severe reaction to mosquito bites.  Relatives claim his general health has deteriorated since his incarceration in Lukiskes which, according to Professor Morgan’s report, is damp, overrun with vermin and lacks basic sanitary provision.

Extradition

Michael Campbell’s brother, Liam, is currently being held in Maghaberry jail, fighting an extradition warrant to Lithuania.

Liam Campbell was arrested in Bessbrook in May 2009 for allegedly breaching bail conditions.  Authorities in the North began extradition proceedings on behalf of the Lithuanian government against him even though extradition proceedings against Campbell were already underway in the Republic of Ireland.

Earlier this month a court hearing in Newry dismissed the case against Campbell for alleged breach of bail conditions due to lack of evidence.

Last week the House of Lords rejected an appeal against duplicating the extradition proceedings in Belfast when the process had already begun in Dublin.  The House ruled that the hearing could proceed because the extradition request had been withdrawn from the Dublin courts days earlier, a development that Campbell’s family claim his legal team was not informed of.

Liam Campbell is one of a number of republican prisoners in Maghaberry protesting against conditions in the jail.  Prisoners are strip-searched before and after visits from family and lawyers. Prisoners who refuse to be strip-searched have their visits cancelled and face punishment.

Liam Campbell’s family say he has lost three out of his last four family visits due to his refusal to be strip-searched.

Inmates have claimed the volatile situation is exacerbated by over zealous prison staff. A recent report the Prison Ombudsman conceded that the system may be open to abuse by some prison staff.

Campbell’s extradition hearing may be held in September although a date has yet to be confirmed.


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