Category: Archive

San Francisco court reopens escapee case

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Joe O’Neill

SAN FRANCISCO — The extradition case in San Francisco against three Maze prison escapees appeared to tumble back to square one last week following a decision by a federal appeals court to overturn a previous decision it made not to extradite the three.

Last October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the extradition order against Kevin Barry Artt, Pól Brennan and Terence Kirby on the grounds that a district judge hearing the case previously had not probed deeply enough the claim by the three that they faced persecution back in Northern Ireland.

That same appeals court has now decided to consider the case again after the U.S. Justice Department appealed for a new hearing.

Immediate reaction in San Francisco to news of the new hearing was largely negative.

The decision to respond positively to the Justice Department’s petition had served to destroy confidence in the ability of the Good Friday peace agreement to deliver peace to Northern Ireland, said the San Francisco Chapter of the Irish American Unity Conference in a statement after the decision of the appeals court which was delivered on August 18.

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Artt, Brennan and Kirby escaped from the former Long Kesh Prison outside Belfast in 1983 and made their way to California.

After being discovered and detained, the three were ordered to be extradited back to Ireland in August 1997 by U.S. District Judge Charles A. Legge.

On appeal, the judge’s ruling was overturned by the Ninth Circuit. In its ruling of last October, the Ninth Circuit specifically raised the question of whether the three men would be punished because of "race, religion or political opinion" if returned to Ireland.

They are currently free on bail.

In now reviewing its own decision, the Circuit has ordered the U.S. government, its client the British government, and defense attorneys for the three to return to court prepared to discuss four issues in the case. The hearing has been set for Sept. 28.

The arguments are likely to be detailed and concise if number two of four items to be considered is any indication. It reads: "(2) assuming ‘use of a bomb’ would require more than possession with intent under Bailey v. United States 516 U.S. 137 (1995), does the broader language ‘involving the use of a bomb’ include possession with intent under United States v. Contregras, 895 F.2d 1241 9th Cir. 1989)? in particular, if involving the use of detonating a bomb might fall within the language of Article 1 of the Supplementary Treaty?"

John Fogarty, regional vice president of the IAUC said: "This decision couldn’t have come at a more crucial time, considering the fragile state of the peace process. At a time when the wholesale release of political prisoners on both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland, including the notorious Loyalist Shankill Butchers, why are we party to the continuing persecution of these men and their families?"

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