Republican prisoners refusing food at Maghaberry prison

  • By: Andrew Boggs
  • Date: September 18, 2020
  • Time to read: 2 min.

Republican prisoners refusing food at Maghaberry prison.

Around 20 dissident republicans are refusing meals at Magaberry prison.

They are protesting over one prisoner who is being held in the Covid-19 isolation ward.

Dr. Issam Bassalat, a New IRA accused GP, was placed in Foyle House after his return from hospital and must be isolated for the required 14 days.

Republican prisoners refusing food

Republican prisoners communicated through the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA), that he was being kept in “filthy and dilapidated conditions”. They demanded that he be moved to Roe House where the republican prisoners are held.

The IRPWA said that there was “room in Roe House to safely isolate Issam until the results of a Covid-19 test is complete”.

They claimed that Dr. Bassalat would go on hunger strike and that republican prisoners in Maghaberry prison and on the E3/E4 landings in Portlaoise prison would also take part in a “solidarity hunger strike alongside him”.

Republican prisoners refusing food

In response, the Department of Justice said, “Since the beginning of Covid-19 over 1,000 men have come through the isolation areas and into the main prison. This is for their safety and the safety of the general prisoner population. During the 14 days, a person in the isolated area will have access to legal representation, showers, telephones, and exercise. Prisoners in separation have previously accepted the need for a 14-day isolation period when they have left the prison for approved purposes.”

Dr. Bassalat, who was from Edinburgh, was arrested at Heathrow Airport in August. He was one of 10 people arrested as part of an operation against the New IRA. He is currently being held on charges of preparatory acts of terrorism.

Dissident republicans have not protested against isolation because of coronavirus before and the chairman of the justice committee at Stormont, Paul Givan (DUP), called the protest “absurd” and said that it would be “ridiculed by the public”.

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