McAliskey extradition farce continues

Roisin McAliskey was arrested in 1996 in relation to a bombing in Germany, but the Crown Prosectuion Service in Britain decided not to proceed with Germany's extradition request as it would be ‘unjust and oppressive'. Last year Germany reissued the request. By Eoin O'Broin


On Monday 21 May 2007 Roisin McAliskey was at her home in Co Tyrone when she was served with a European Arrest Warrant in connection to a 1996 IRA bombing of the British Army Base in Osnabruek, Germany.

McAliskey was originally arrested by the RUC in November 1996.  Four months pregnant, she was questioned for a week in the Castlereagh detention centre on matters unrelated to Germany. She was released, instantly rearrested, and served with an extradition request from the German authorities in relation to the Osnabruk bombing. The request was secured during her seven day detention.  

One of the detectives involved during her time in Castlereagh was at the scene of a UDA attack on her family home in 1981 in which her mother was shot six times, an episode believed to involve collusion between the UDA and the security services. McAliskey is pursuing an case against the RUC in relation to her treatment at Castlereagh.

McAliskey was held for 15 months in Holloway Womens Prison and Belmarsh Prison for Men. She was subjected to more than 70 strip searches. Despite her pregnancy she was classified as an Exceptionally High Risk Category, subject to 23-hour lock up with only one hour per day solitary confinement on the prison roof as exercise time.

Her daughter, born in May 1997, was named Loinnir, an old Irish name meaning ‘ray of light that shines through a dark cloud'. Roisin chose the name while in her cell where the only natural light came through the clouded glass of a small window which had been glued shut.

Suffering from post-natal depression and deep post-traumatic stress disorder Roisin spent seven months at Maudsley hospital in London while still in custody and subsequently received additional treatment in Ireland.

British Home Secretary Jack Straw halted the extradition proceedings on the basis that it would be “unjust and oppressive”, McAliskey was released several weeks later.
The German authorities claimed to have a fingerprint on a piece of cellophane but never confirmed when or where this came into their possession. They also claimed that they had a witness who confirmed McAliskey's presence at a holiday park over 100km from Osnabruck. The witness, Manfred Smidt subsequently denied any such claim on German television.

Roisin's has always maintained that she was not in Germany at the time and could call witnesses to this effect from her employment and from her community.

Following a parliamentary question submitted by the Labour MP Paul Goggins in 2002, it was revealed that in 2000 the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) sought to prosecute Roisin in Britain. Following an assessment of the aevidence the CPS concluded that there was no basis to initiate a trial and the case was dropped. This view was endorsed by the British Attorney General and Solicitor General.

However, on 12 November 2006, a request for the extradition of McAliskey was again submitted by the German authorities. It is unclear why it took seven months for the warrant to be acted upon.

At the hearing in Belfast on 21 May Judge Tom Burgess granted bail of £2,500 (€3,600). There have been two additional hearings, on 6 June and 22 August. A third is set for 5 September, at which the arguments of the CPS and McAliskey's defence team will be heard. McAliskey's legal team has yet to see all the relevant documentation regarding the case they are still unclear as to why the extradition warrant was issued when all concerned believed the case to be closed.

The date for the extradition case to start is set for Tuesday 23 October 2007.

Whatever the motivations of either the German authorities or the Crown Prosecution Service, the trauma for Roisin McAliskey and her family continues. That a case such as this is even being heard is itself a travesty of justice.