Free Stephen Murney
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We the undersigned call for the immediate release of Irish political activist Stephen Murney. We further call for the dropping of all charges against Stephen and the ending of the politically motivated campaign of harrasment by the PSNI against Stephen.
Stephen Murney Interned Without Trial
Stephen Murney is an Irish socialist republican activist from the border city of Newry. On the morning of November 28, 2012 as he prepared to celebrate his birthday, Stephen’s home was raided by a unit of heavily armed British police. Stephen was arrested and taken to the high security interrogation centre in Antrim town.
On December 1, 2012 Stephen was taken to court and charged with a number of spurious ‘terrorist’ related ‘offences’. He was then remanded to Maghaberry high security prison where he remains to this day. No date has yet been fixed for Stephen’s trial in one of Britain’s ‘special’ courts. Like other political prisoners in the Six Counties it is possible that Stephen could serve up to three years in prison before his trial.
Campaign of Police Harassment
As a result of his political work Stephen found himself the target of continuous harassment by the PSNI (British paramilitary police) including near daily ‘stop and searches’, threats and assault. In the day's leading up to his arrest the local media in Newry had carried extensive quotations from Stephen criticising the heavy-handed policing techniques of the PSNI. The charging of Stephen with 'terrorist offences' must, therefore, be seen in the context of an ongoing politically motivated campaign of police harassment.
The PSNI has provided no credible evidence to support the 'terrorist' charges against Stephen. In relation to a charge of 'collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists' the PSNI have produced a large number of images of the police recovered from Stephen's laptop computer. These images are a mixture of Internet-sourced photographs dating back up to forty years and photographs that Stephen took himself at political protests and to document police harassment. It is common practice across the globe for political activists to document the behaviour of the police in this way. All of the photographs that Stephen took himself were taken in full view of the PSNI - a fact conceded by the PSNI in court.
In relation to a charge of 'distributing information likely to be of use to terrorists' the PSNI are citing the fact that Stephen uploaded some of the above photographs onto the Internet including social media websites like Facebook. In relation to the charge of 'having articles likely to be of use to terrorists' the PSNI are relying on the trousers, jumpers and berets of a flute band uniform that Stephen was previously a member of and two BB 'guns' that were recovered from Stephen's house. BB (ball bearing) airguns are both legal and widely available across Ireland.
And finally in relation to a charge of ‘aiding and abetting in criminal damage to property owned by persons unknown’ the PSNI are citing a number of spray paint stencils that they removed from Stephen's home. These stencils included ones criticising the PSNI.
A Test Case that must Not Succeed
‘First they came for the communists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist,
Then they came for the socialists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me’
It is widely believed in political and legal circles that the PSNI are using Stephen Murney’s case as a test case to effectively lower the bar for the British state to secure convictions against political activists. It that state succeeds in convicting Stephen on the basis of the ‘evidence’ outlined above it will set a legal precedent which will have deep and far-reaching consequences for activists across the political spectrum in Ireland, Britain and beyond.
It would be extremely naive to believe that a precedent established against an Irish republican today would not be used against a socialist, anarchist, environmentalist, trade unionist, whistleblower or other political opponent tomorrow. All who claim to stand against injustice and for human rights are duty-bound to support Stephen Murney and the campaign to have him released.
You can find out more about Stephen's case at www.eirigi.org/campaigns/stephen_murney.html
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