The PSNI and prosecution service stand accused of operating a system of ‘internment by remand’ after Stephen Murney, a member of the socialist republican party éirígí, was cleared of all charges alleging that he took photographs of PSNI personnel for “terrorist” purposes.
Stephen Murney had faced a number of charges related to taking photographs of PSNI personnel during stop and search operations, public protests, and other incidents. He had been detained in Maghaberry prison for the past 14 months.
Until his arrest and imprisonment in 2012, Stephen Murney held the position of local Public Relations Officer for éirígí in the Newry and Mourne area. The photographs were taken by him in that capacity in order to record, document and publicise PSNI misuse of their powers.
Speaking after his acquittal and release, Stephen Murney said, “My imprisonment for the past 14 months was as a direct result of my political views and my membership of éirígí – an open and legitimate political party.
“Those charges, of which I have been found to be innocent, were brought against me by the PSNI who objected to fact that I recorded, documented and publicised PSNI personnel abusing the human and civil rights of citizens in the Newry area.
“Even though it was clear from the very outset that these charges were completely without substance, both the PSNI and prosecution service have persisted with a legalised charade which resulted in my imprisonment from December 2012. There is no other way of describing that charade except as ‘internment by remand’.
“I intend to continue with my activism on behalf of éirígí.”
éirígí’s general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, who attended the trial, said, “From the outset, we have said that the charges against our party comrade were nothing more than a spurious means to remove a committed and dedicated political activist from his family and his community. In short, Stephen’s imprisonment has been tantamount to ‘internment by remand’.
“Stephen’s case also highlights, yet again, the false claims made by constitutional nationalist parties in the Six Counties. This case clearly epitomises the reality of modern political policing.
“Had the PSNI and prosecution service been successful in their action against Stephen, it is very evident that this case would have had profound implications in relation to Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 10 states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. That right includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by state authorities.
“Stephen’s arrest and imprisonment was a blatant but crude attempt at political censorship and the open suppression of legitimately-held political opinions in direct contravention of those Article 10 rights.
“In that regard, this case is strongly reminiscent of the type of charges brought by RUC against political activists and others under the old and internationally discredited Special Powers Act.
“Had the PSNI and prosecution service succeeded in this case, I have no doubt that it would have led to the arrests of other political activists and to possible gagging orders on political publications as a first step towards an outright ban on éirígí as a political party.”
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