Tag Archives: state repression

30th October: presentation from Antifenix in Bristol!

antifenix

At Kebele Community Centre,
14 Robertson Road,
BS5 6JY

7.30pm

In May 2015, the state began Operation Fenix, a campaign of repression against anarchists and liberatory activists. Dozens of people were arrested and interrogated, websites were taken down, computers seized, houses raided.

Now, 18 months later, the Czech state’s campaign of terror has not ended, but neither has the campaign of solidarity and unity of the radical movement in the face of this repression.

Come to Kebele on the 30th of October, after Sunday dnner, and learn about how people have stayed strong and supported each other, and what we can do to support them in our turn. There will be a member of the antirepression group Antifenix speaking, so don’t miss out on this chance to come along and hear about it firsthand!

antifenix.noblogs.org

ommunique from Martin Ignačák at the start of his hunger strike

Communique from Martin Ignačák: start of hunger strike 9.6.2016

We have already informed about the fact that Martin, unlike us, has not been aware of the decision of the court. He hasn’t received the official decision to this day (June 9th, now he has gotten it) but has been informed about the court decision by his family and his lawyer who visited him yesterday. The court had decided that Martin is to remain in custody. Therefore today Martin officially begins the hunger strike. Here is Martin’s statement:

START OF HUNGER STRIKE

The hunger strike is my free reaction to the circumstances that concern the approach of the police in the Fénix case.

The situation is unbearable for me due to the slander through which R. Šlachta has demagogically been ling to the Higher court. I consider it unlawful that my family is being monitored, their private lives are being interfered with, their opinion and feelings of the Fénix case are being judged. This indirectly shows that any criticism is an impulse for the monitoring of the dissenting persons and the recording of details of their private lives.

I also consider it unlawful that the privacy of my friends and their families is being violated by the police who call their employers and landlords and try to intimidate them through this tactic.

Furthermore the remand prison Praha – Pankrác is knowingly violating moral and human rights as far as nutrition is concerned, as so far they have provided me with food that is completely non-nutritive, I am not provided with vegan food. I am fully provided with food by people on the outside but is very difficult for my family and friends.

Another thing is that my detention in remand has the form of pressure detention – not just in the form of being denied vegan food but also the constant ‘security’ measures due to which visits from my counsel for defence take place through bars or plexiglass, even when I am looking through file documents. Even though a month before that the review of file documents took place without such measures.

With this protest I want to express my dissatisfaction and show that the police dishonourably goes into extremes and knowingly acts unlawfully. They give false, targeted and untrue information to keep me in custody, on the basis of mere assumptions and fabrications, this is done by police agents and investigators.

I want to emphasize that the hunger strike is not an outcome of the trial. I want to and I will defend myself in the trial and I will participate in it, as I have already stated at the City court in Prague.

I will not end the hunger strike as long as this unbearable state persists and until the immediate remedy in these respects:

Immediate withdrawal of the false record on my sister given by R.
Šlachta.
Immediate suspension of all unlawful and illegal monitoring, bullying and intimidation of my family, my friends and their families.
Immediate improvement of food in the remand prison in Praha – Pankrác.
Repeated and independent review of my release from custody with
acceptance of promises and proposals from my side and the replacement of custody by other measures.

Antifenix

IMPRISONED ANARCHIST MARTIN IGNAČÁK HAS GONE ON HUNGER STRIKE

On Friday 27.5. 2016 in Pankrác remand prison anarchist Martin Ignačák accused of terrorism went on hunger strike. He did this because on 29.4.2016 the City court in Prague ruled in favour of his release from remand and the state’s attorney appealed this decision to the High court in Prague. On friday 27.5. 2016 the High court in Prague extended the remand. Therefore the anarchist has decided to protest by going on hunger strike and has stopped taking in nutrition and liquids. This type of hunger strike threatens the life of the hunger striker after a week.

During the year long investigation of the preparation of a supposed terrorist attack the imprisoned anarchist has exhausted all legal options, to achieve objective procedure of the respective organs active in the criminal proceedings. None of them were taken into account. This is why he now chose this radical form of expression, to draw attention to this manipulated police case. ” I consider the approach of the
investigators and the police to be very problematic, it is a threat to the freedom of every human being, a threat to freedom of speech, a threat to activism that tries to lead to a better world , and this doesn’t just involve anarchists.”

Martin is being prosecuted in the so called Fénix case from April 2015, in which altogether 5 people were accused of the preparation and the failure to notify of a terrorist attack on a train. Martin is the only one who has been in remand prison this whole time and his detention has now been extended after the intervention of the state’s attorney. As a reason for the extension of remand the state’s attorney used the testimony of a police agent who infiltrated the anarchist movement in 2014. From his testimony the state’s attorney drew the conclusion that
Martin might attempt to escape to Spain. Another reason, according to him, was that Martin ” is connected to the so called Síť revolučních buněk/ The Network of Revolutionary Cells (SRB) and therefore also to similar organizations abroad.” The police spoke about SRB when they began Fénix and provided information to the media. ” Any connections between the 5 attacks ascribed to SRB and all the detained and accused
have been refuted. The investigators themselves have ruled it out” says Martin.

At the moment Martin is the second longest detained prisoner in the Pankrác remand prison. For 13 months he lives there under conditions, that negatively affect his psychological and physical state. For example he has been refused food free of animal products, which means he practically doesn’t have access to hot food. Friends, who have come to visit him have been mentioned by name in the indictment. Police from the Department for combating organized crime have started to collect information on Martin’s sister, only because she tries to support her brother in whichever way she can.

For Martin parole would mean that after 13 long months he would again see his friends, family, nature, that he wouldn’t be exposed to emotional deprivation and physical hardship.

Update Sunday, May 29th: Martin’s sister Pavla B. joined her brother in the protest and this morning she has started hunger strike herself as well.

For more information follow antifenix.noblogs.org

Report from the court with Igor – The first court since the FENIX started

It has been just over a year since the police operation ‘Fenix’ became known to the people of Czech Republic. Just over 1 Year since the 1st arrests were made, of which Martin still remains on remand in custodial prison as a result of what appears to be entrapment. People are still being bullied, pursued and repressed on a daily basis. On 26 & 27 April was the first trial since the repression began (to our knowledge). The case of Igor Shevstov, who was accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at
the house of defense minister Stropnický, and for filming somebody graffiti the prison. He was looking at 15 years imprisonment, on top of the 3 months already served in custodial prison (remand), where he was kept under maximum security for part of the time. (read more under the Igor tab on antifenix.noblogs.org)

The Court room held the first major public display of this farce, also known as Fenix.

The trial was held in a small room, accessible to 18 people only, the majority of which were journalists. This did not prevent supporters of Igor gathering in the corridor and outside the courthouse.

After the charges were read out, the damning evidence came out. Of all the digital and printed evidence the police collected in this investigation, the judge pulled out a photo which was found on Igor’s mobile phone, a picture of his foot on a doormat of the USA flag. When questioned about why he saved this picture, Igor replied “I thought it was funny”. At this point it became clear that the prosecution were going to prey on Igor’s Russian origins as a motive for the alleged Molotov attack on the Stropnický house. – To explain, Stropnickys undying love for the west makes him a target for any Russian! In this case, Russian translates as Pro-Putin/anti-west. Igor was portrayed in the media as a crazy Russian nationalist after his arrest. The great
contradiction here is that in Russia Igor was prosecuted for unannounced demonstrations against the Russian occupation of the Crimea and against Putin’s imperialist government. And as he explained in his closing speech, simply being Russian does not automatically make you pro-Russian/some kind of Russian nationalist.

The next laugh in the courtroom was the judges interest in Igor’s
tattoos, namely the ACAB on his neck. The room erupted in laughter at his explanation. It wasn’t the last time the judge had to settle the crowds laughter.

It came as no surprise, but it still bites. The contradiction. One rule for Igor, another for Stropnicky. Like many anarchists before, Igor was forbidden to use any political argument in his defense. When Stropnický took to the stand, he completely utilized his freedom, with a mixture of politics, fear and slander, he created a monster out of Igor, exclaiming
that since the defendant moved to the Czech Republic he felt a great radicalization of society, with increased hatred from the left and the right. He referred to the alleged Molotov attack as an assassination (the media’s sensationalized term for this case) and basically said Igor’s presence in the country attributed to the rise of so called Rightist, Leftist and fundamentalist extremism. Stropnický was also the only person in the court room to openly claim to know how to make a Molotov cocktail, as learnt from an anarchist website, he described why the bottle did not ignite correctly and went on to say that his house would have been burnt to ashes in seconds had the molotovs been a success. Interesting.

What else.

Martin Stropnický and His wife Veronika Stropnická spoke of how the attack was clearly aiming for their daughters room, as though anarchists make a habit of attacking children. It is worth noting at this point that a collage containing photos of the daughters with black crosses over their faces came to the family. The family for some reason don’t think that the photos and the attack are connected. Police said they actually had some person, which was saying, that he had experience making Molotov cocktails and working for the Bernard beer company (Molotov cocktails were made out of Bernard bottles). And it was the
person, who was sending letters to Stropnicky. Police then said that this person is not suspicious and sent him to the psychiatric hospital.

The prosecution’s main evidence was the alleged scent match between Igor and the Molotov bottles. The defense requested an expert from the scientific sector on odor to testify, since this kind of evidence is seen as untrustworthy, this request was however rejected by the judge.

In defense.

Interestingly, it is facebook which was used in Igor’s defense. At the time of the attack, Igor was using facebook to communicate with his partner while being in the student club. The judge claimed that the conversations were untrustworthy and doubted the claim, since the Facebook ID is not identical to Igor’s name, and therefore it could be anybody writing there. However, to use this against Igor the prosecution should collect data, logs, and match it against Igor’s personal style of
communication, like an old fashioned handwriting test perhaps. This of course did not happen.

The Graffiti.

The prison officer brought forward the bill to repair the graffitied external prison walls.
The graffiti apparently appeared because Igor was filming it.
The invoice was 6267Kč (approx €230). 3 points worth noting, first, the purchase of materials to repair the graffiti sprayed in May 2015 took place in March 2015, secondly it was necessary to reimburse several prisoners for 96 hours of work repairing an 8.5 m2 wall. And finally the inscription “Free Nationalists” which had been there long before the event, was also cleaned and pegged on Igor’s Bill. However, the court said that Igor does not have to pay this, because there were some mistakes in the prison’s protocols about damage, they shit their own bureaucracy.

The Verdict.

13.00, 27 April 2016 the verdict was announced. The Court ruled that Igor Shevstov was not to blame for the attack on the Minister of Defense’s house. However the judge stressed that its not because it was proved that he didn’t do it, but because unfortunately they failed to prove that he did do it!

The second paragraph of the indictment; assistance in the offense of the destruction of foreign affairs (filming the graffiti). Igor was found guilty and sentenced to deportation form Czech Republic for two years, and that he must leave within 20 days. However He will appeal the decision, so he doesn’t have to leave. For now.
The camera was also forfeited to the state.

The Explanation.

The camera operator was clearly looking right and left, and thus
physically assisting the accomplices who sprayed the graffiti.
As well as, psychologically supporting “accomplices”, which means
putting up slogans in support of the people inside the prison.

Igor supposedly has no ties in Czech, no facilities or a proper visa and so the punishment of expulsion was seen as the most appropriate. The Judge failed to mention the three months Igor already spent in jail for no reason, the fact that he lost his student visa because of it, and the numerous friends he has in Czech Republic. Igor has asked for a work visa, which is giving him the right to stay in Czech until the state will most probably refuse it.

The judgment is clearly influenced by political opinion. Being exiled for two years (in Russia!) for filming somebody graffiti and for not respecting local democracy, was the best way to get rid of Igor.

The Judge did not take into account the fact that Igor had already spent three months in remand prison, for no reason, without being able to contact his loved ones.

One does not have to be an anarchist to understand why Igor dislikes “our” democracy. Just as we do not have to be from Russia to dislike the democratic states. And it is not because we want Putin’s dictatorship, (how the police, courts and the media seem to see it), but because it is still based on a regime of inequality and exclusion held by institutions and the market.

Igor himself said after the verdict that “the whole process is just politicized and the state is a dehumanized bureaucratic machine, not able to perceive real people’s bounds and interests”. This received an agreeing applause, after which the judge said that it is really the last time, otherwise she will expel the whole back row.

For more information, check antifenix.noblogs.org

Important Advice for Anarchists Travelling To/From the UK

Police in the UK are allowed to question anyone entering/leaving the country about “terrorism” – without the right to silence. We have spoken to a number of anarchists who have been questioned under these powers, known as “Schedule 7”. Because of a lack of information on the law, most of those stopped have given more information than they had to. This includes people from outside of the UK who have not even heard of “Schedule 7” before. For this reason, we strongly recommend any anarchists travelling to/from the UK read our briefing beforehand – https://bristolabc.wordpress.com/defendant-solidarity/resources-and-advice/schedule-7/.

If you have been questioned under “Schedule 7”, please contact the Network for Police Monitoring, so they can keep track of how the police are using this power. Website: https://netpol.org; Email: info (at) netpol.orgUK Border

Debbie Vincent Sentenced to 6 Years In Prison

debbie_2860235bDebbie Vincent, a long-term animal rights campaigner, was sentenced to 6 years in prison on Thursday 17th April at Winchester Crown Court. She was found guilty of ‘conspiracy to blackmail’ for her public involvement in the campaign to shut down notorious animal testing lab Huntingdon Life Sciences. Debbie was the first of three defendants to face trial related to the ‘Blackmail 3’ case.

The other two defendants are currently awaiting extradition from Holland and may face trial later in the year. In the mean time please continue to show solidarity with them, you can visit the Blackmail 3 Support Campaign website for ideas of ways to support them.

You can also write to Debbie in prison, her address is:

Debbie Vincent (A5819DE)
HMP-YOI BRONZEFIELD
Woodthorpe Road,
Ashford,
Middlesex,
TW15 3JZ

Russia: Well-known Russian anti-fascist, Alexey Gaskarov, arrested

via Autonomous Action

On sunday, the 28th of April 2013, a well-known Russian anti-fascist, Alexey Gaskarov, was arrested in Moscow. He is a member of the Coordination Council of Russian opposition. The investigation committee of the Russian Federation has accused him of having pacticipated in riots and violence against representative of authorities on the 6th of May 2012, when OMON (Russian riot police) attacked a peaceful demonstration.

The 6th of May was one day prior to Putin’s inauguration, and a mass demonstration had been called by the opposition. The winter and spring of 2011-2012 saw the biggest wave of political demonstrations in Russia in almost 20 years, as tens of thousands of people went out on the streets to protest election fraud. The 6th of May was also the first time authorities moved to crush these protests. According to the opposition more than 600 people were arrested, and as of now 28 people have been charged, who have been remanded, been put under house arrest or have been forced to emigrate.

On that day, Alexey Gaskarov was beaten up by OMON with batons and boots. He filed a complaint against the officers who beat him up, but nobody was charged. Now, a year after, and just a few days before the anniversary of the 6th of May demonstration, as Alexey was about to be at the head of the column of the left-wing and anti-fascist bloc, he has had a set of absurd charges brought against him and has been arrested.

Alexey Gaskarov was born on the 18th of June 1985, and has been politically active since his school years.

Gaskarov gained fame in the summer and autumn of 2010, when during the protest campaign against the destruction of the Khimki forest, he was  arrested along with Maxim Solopov and was accused of orchestrating an attack by 300-400 young anti-fascists, who supported the environmental struggle, against the administration of the city of Khimki.  In autumn 2010, Alexey Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov were released from prison, thanks to a massive international campaign for the “Khimki Hostages”. In the summer of 2011, Gaskarov was cleared of all charges.

Since the beginning of the mass demonstrations against the falsification of the elections in Russia in December of 2011, Alexey Gaskarov has been an active participant. He was one of the speakers in the biggest of the demonstrations, on the 24th of December 2011 in Sakharov street in Moscow, and was in charge of the security for that meeting, who fought back against the Neo-Nazi provocations.

He is being held in the police jail of Petrovka 38, awaiting his appointment in court at 11am on the 29th of April 2013 at the Basmanniy courthouse in Moscow. Pending court decision, Gaskarov will be remanded or released.

Additional information:

Mexico: Joint communiqué from anarchist collectives and organizations in solidarity with Mario López “the Gut”

“Solidarity is the heart of the struggle against Power – Freedom to Mario Antonio López Hernández”

From Mexico ABC:
July 2nd, 2012

In the early hours of June 27th, there was an explosion at the corner of Vicente Guerrero and Londres streets in the Del Carmen neighbourhood of Coyoacán, in Mexico City. Comrade Mario Antonio López Hernández was found there with several burns across his body. He was put in an ambulance and transported under police custody to Rubén Leñero hospital, where his leg and arm were operated on.

At no point was his family allowed to see him, let alone was he able to consult with a lawyer that he trusted to make a statement regarding the accusations that he was facing. On the contrary, members of the Mexican Federal District’s judicial police hounded him with questions, pressuring him to respond—even though the comrade was not physically able to testify, because he was still anaesthetized from surgery—and to accept his participation in other actions, in particular an explosion which had occurred hours before at an ATM at the building of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).

It wasn’t until a day later, after pressure from several comrades, that he was able to communicate with his lawyer and family. His family’s house was searched, and nothing relating to the accusations was discovered. Since the morning that Mario was found injured, the mass media published articles in which he is portrayed as a dangerous terrorist.

We have information that the police are trying to link more people to the facts, Felicity Ryder in particular, whose name has appeared in various mass media outlets as Mario’s supposed accomplice, to the point of even declaring that she’s been detained; this, however, has not been confirmed by the Attorney General of Mexico (PGR).

We condemn these irregularities, not because we believe in laws and legality, which only serve to sustain this predatory system, but because we think it’s important not to shut up before the attempt of the Mexican Federal District’s government and judicial police to stage a media case against Mario in particular and the anarchist movement in general.

We are certain that the Mexican Federal District’s government intends to make a scapegoat out of Mario, by setting up a case that attempts to link him to other actions and changing the charges, the last one being “Attack on Public Peace”, and furthermore that they’re beginning a hunt of anarchists. The Attorney General of Mexico has demonstrated that he’s incapable of restraining the offensive of anarchist direct action groups and is, thus, trying to take advantage of a compañero’s accident in order to make an example of him and strike fear into anarchist groups. We also know that the police have a list of names of comrades and organizations that they are now investigating.

We the members of different organizations and collectives in the anarchist movement declare:

– Our total solidarity with our compañero Mario through these difficult times. We embrace him and await his prompt and thorough recovery.

– Solidarity among anarchists is more than just a written word, as we will take a series of actions to disseminate information about the comrade’s situation, as well as to demand his immediate liberation.

– We ask to see and hear Felicity Ryder. In an article from June 29th in the daily newspaper Excelsior, it is mentioned that she has been detained, but this has been neither denied, nor confirmed by the Attorney General of Mexico.

– We reject and denounce the crude attempt by the Mexican Federal District’s government to turn our compañero into a scapegoat while he is incapacitated.

– We call on all independent, autonomous and anti-capitalist organizations to be vigilant about the government’s attempts to provoke an anti-anarchist witch-hunt. We are sure that this new “leftist” government will continue the policy of prosecution and judicialization of any political expression that doesn’t adhere to their plans.

– The social inequality, which sustains this system of domination and exploitation, is much more violent than any form of protest, and attacks the innate right to a dignified life, hindering the freedom of individuals, preying on nature, subjecting the peoples, stripping them and casting them into ever more numerous penitentiaries of this prison-society; this is why we will continue to organize ourselves and build a new world, founded on freedom, mutual aid, solidarity and free accord.

For Mario’s freedom!
For anarchy!

Cruz Negra Anarquista de México
Federación Anarquista de México-DF-Edo. Mex.
Grupo Anarco Comunista
Colectivo Acción Libertaria
Biblioteca Social Reconstruir
Federación Ecatepec Anarquista
Centro de Información Anarquista
Ediciones Hormiga Libertaria
Espacio anarcofeminista Ni Ama Ni Esclava
Libertas Anticorp
Sin Medios Producciones
Regeneración Radio
Proyecto Ambulante Medios Libres
Proyecto Rhabdovirus
2HAK Hip Hop Libertario
Escarlata Revoltoza
Centro Social Okupado Casa Naranja
Espacio Autónomo Café Emma Goldman
Revista Tiempo Animal
Radio Molocha
Individuos Acratas de la Liga de Lucha Libertaria
Fanzinoteca Lee libre
Videoteca La Revuelta

Source: Anarchist Black Cross of Mexico

Note: It was reported in the bourgeois Press that another person may have been arrested, namely Felicity Ann Ryder (Australian citizen), but this has so far neither been confirmed by comrades or relatives, nor declared officially by the Mexican or Australian authorities. In addition, it became known that the house of Mario’s mother was raided and searched on June 29th. The “Lawyers Group in Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners”, in their Press release of June 29th, denounced the kidnapping by the Mexico City’s authorities of the Australian citizen Felicity Ann Ryder, based—as it seems—solely on information about her arrest that were spread by diverse mainstream media, while they emphasized it had not yet been made public where she was being held, nor on what charges. See also this update (retrieved from the Press, though). We ask anyone to contribute confirmed information on Felicity’s situation (and not mere media speculations), if possible.

You may read a communiqué by Mario López “the Gut” himself on Slackbastard.

Massive international repressive operation ‘Ardire’ launched against anarchists across Europe; A statement from Tomo + Prisoner addresses (Italy)

From 325 and contra-info:

At 4 o’clock in the morning of June 13th, 2012, the carabiniers of the Special Operations Group (Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale, ROS) raided about forty homes, implementing the so-called ‘operation boldness’ (operazione ardire), a crackdown against people from the anarchist movement ordered by Manuela Comodi, public prosecutor of Perugia. According to the regime’s media, a total of 10 arrest warrants were issued—eight within Italy, one sent to Germany and one sent to Switzerland—while 24 suspects have been put under judicial investigation. The Italian bourgeois Press did not hesitate to connect the arrested with ‘the anarcho-insurrectionist FAI/FRI [Informal Anarchist Federation / International Revolutionary Front]’.

The eight comrades, who were arrested in Pisa, Roma, Perugia, Genova, Terni and have been remanded in custody, are Stefano Gabriele Fosco, Elisa Di Bernardo, Alessandro Settepani, Sergio Maria Stefani, Katia Di Stefano, Giuseppe Lo Turco, Paola Francesca Iozzi and Giulia Marziale.

As for Germany and Switzerland, the precautionary measures were ordered against two anarchists that have already been kidnapped by the State several years ago, namely Gabriel Pombo Da Silva and Marco Camenisch.

Among the names of investigated suspects are also those of some imprisoned comrades that are prosecuted for the CCF [Conspiracy Cells of Fire] case in Greece.

Informa-Azione will try to publish the addresses of Italian prisons in which the eight arrestees have been incarcerated, inviting anyone who has relevant information to contact them.

In addition, according to the independent Radio Azione, it is possible that house searches have taken place against three comrades in Naples, too.

Among the raided houses—where the police were officially in search of explosive materials and electronic and printed documents—was the residence of an editor of Informa-Azione; apart from other items, the cops confiscated the editor’s computers that were necessary for updating the website. The homes of comrades from Culmine (who are now under arrest) and ParoleArmate (one of them is under arrest, the other one is investigated) were raided as well.

Continue reading

John Bowden Writes From HMP Shotts

John Bowden writes about his treatment at the hands of a megalomaniac social worker and an all too acquiescent Parole Board. Further articles by John, and others about his current situation and what you can do to help, can be found here and on the Leeds ABC website.
 
In June of 2011, the Parole Board for England and Wales finally carried out its statutory obligation to review my continued imprisonment after 32 years of captivity. Its official terms of reference were clear and straightforward; to be reassured that I represented no risk or danger to the public, (the main legal criteria determining whether a life sentence prisoner is safe to be released or not), and that I could be safely managed or supervised in the community beyond prison.The circumstances of my original offence of murder were indeed brutal and terrible, although confined to a sub-culture of petty criminals and alcoholics who existed on the margins of South London working-class society. Along with two other men I was convicted of the murder of another man during a drinking session in a South London flat; ordinarily a fairly unremarkable event in that part of inner-city London. This killing stood out more because of the means by which the victim’s remains were disposed of than by the actual act of killing itself. At the time of the offence I was 25 years old, and had already spent the greater part of my life in repressive institutions and jails, and was considered the leader of the group of men who had committed the murder basically because I was considered marginally more intelligent and articulate than the other two. I was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the judge’s recommendation that I serve no less than 25 years. The other two received recommendations of 15 years, and were released almost two decades ago.Two leading forensic psychologists , one a world authority on “psychopathic personality disorders”, Professor David Cooper, interviewed and assessed me before the parole hearing last June, and submitted written and oral evidence at the hearing which essentially said that I no longer represented a risk or danger to the community and was safe to be either transferred to an open prison or be released completely. The first and most important legal criterion determining a life sentence prisoner’s release; public safety or protection, obviously justified releasing me. Overall, the general consensus of professional opinion presented at the parole hearing was that I could be released and safely managed in the community, and in fact I already had been to some degree by being allowed to work in the community for a number of years on external prison work projects and schemes. A post-release supervision plan was also presented to the parole hearing by a community based social worker, which envisaged my living a reasonably independent life in my own accommodation whilst being regularly visited and monitored by a social work team. Legally, the Parole Board would have been justified in ordering my release, but they chose not to do so.

Throughout the hearing the Parole Board panel focused insistently on my “anti-authoritarian” character and attitude, and defined it not as a result and product of my experience of prison, but as a lingering residue of a “psychopathic personality disorder”. My prison history of protest and resistance, as well as legal actions taken against serious abuses of power on the part of the prison system, was not defined or characterised as a positive conversion from hardened de-humanised criminal to politicised prisoner and human rights activist, but as simply evidence of a pathological hatred of authority and discipline, and a potential risk to the community. As far as the panel were concerned I remained a psychopath, although one probably mellowed by age and manageable by the strictest and most robust post-release supervision plan.

Rejecting the independent living post-release supervision plan presented at the hearing, the Board decided instead that if released I should be required to live in a closely-supervised hostel and allowed minimum freedom and autonomy. Although I represented no real danger to the community, my “anti-authoritarian” character was considered, by the Board, justification for imposing as much authority and control over me as possible following my release. In order to allow Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services, who would be responsible for supervising me in the community, sufficient time to arrange such a stringent post-release supervision plan, my release was denied for a further twelve months, during which time, the Board suggested, I would be transferred to an open jail and prepared for release. The Scottish Prison Service representative at the hearing agreed to arrange such a transfer at the earliest opportunity.

Following the parole hearing, two crucial things happened. First, the prison authorities reneged on the agreement to transfer me to an open jail, using two earlier absconds from prison to justify insisting that I be psychologically risk-assessed and made to complete whatever behaviour-modification programmes and courses were recommended, before consideration would be given to transferring me to open conditions. There were, of course, long waiting lists for both the assessment and programmes. And second, responsibility for formulating a post-release supervision plan was given to Brendan Barnett, a social worker employed by Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services.

Barnett considered his role to involve far more than just arranging a release plan and hostel accommodation, and decided also to write for the Parole Board a thorough personal assessment and analysis of my life before the murder offence, a forensic description of the killing itself, and what he believed were my psychological motivations both before and during my imprisonment, all of which he coloured with subversive moral opinion and obvious antipathy. His completed report to the Parole Board was a mixture of amateur psychology, distorted fact, and obvious prejudice, with an actual post-release supervision plan almost an incidental addition. He also blatantly lied in his report, claiming to find a reference in an obscure early prison social work report, that justified his outrageous subsequent claim that I was convicted of racist and homophobic hate crimes! Despite every bit of evidence to the contrary (police reports, trial transcripts, and indeed every other report and document in my file), Barnett presented as fact his ridiculous lies. Equally incredibly, when presented with his report, the Parole Board chose to remain silent, despite KNOWING that his report was seriously and inexorably flawed.

When I made a formal complaint about the lies in Bartlett’s report to his superiors at Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services, what immediately kicked-in was a concerted attempt on their part to close ranks around him, and despite all the evidence clearly ascertaining what he had wrote was untrue, reject my complaint out of hand. Truth and fact were clearly secondary to the absolute priority to defend and protect a colleague, even one so seriously and worryingly lacking in personal and professional integrity.

Barnett’s response to my complaint was vicious and single-mindedly spiteful. On the 14th May this year, he held a “multi-disciplinary meeting”, and persuaded a hostel in Edinburgh, that had agreed to accept me as part of the Parole Board inspired post-release supervision plan, to now refuse me accommodation. He also persuaded a representative from Edinburgh Housing not to provide me with accommodation. He then persuaded Scottish Prison Service Headquarters that I should be transferred back to the English prison system because I had no links or contacts in Scotland, which he knew to be completely untrue. He then persuaded a remarkably compliant Parole Board that my next parole hearing, scheduled for June this year, should be postponed until I was “psychiatrically risk assessed” by a psychiatrist of his choice.

The Board were aware, of course, that I had already been thoroughly psychologically risk-assessed before the hearing last June, and there was absolutely no justification for introducing a psychiatric dimension to my case, but they agreed to Barnett’s recommendation nevertheless. Neither did they question why Barnett, who was effectively engineering my transfer out of the Scottish system, and beyond Edinburgh Criminal Justice Service’s responsibility and obligation to supervise, should happily provide the funding for a psychiatrist of his choice to “risk-assess” me. Brendan Barnett had effectively wrecked any post-release supervision plan, and yet the Parole Board appeared content to go along with and support him.

At the parole hearing last year, the parole panel clearly set it’s face against releasing me, despite the legal criteria supporting that release, and it then insisted on a post-release supervision plan of such severity that it was virtually inevitable that an authoritarian zealot such as Barnett would emerge to abuse the power such a plan would exercise over me. Barnett has created a justification to further prolong my imprisonment, and the Parole Board seem happy with it.

Earlier this year, the outgoing Chairperson of the Parole Board, once safely distanced from responsibility, warned that the Parole Board‘s hindering and delaying the release of life sentence prisoners, of which there are over 1200 in England and Wales, would inevitably and eventually create serious unrest in the prison system. The deliberate design in preventing my release suggests a total disregard for personal or institutional consequences.

Barnett meanwhile, continues to use the system to exercise his hatred of “offenders”, supported and defended by his colleagues at Edinburgh Criminal Justice Services, and clearly within a social and political climate of increasing authoritarianism, intolerance, and hated of “offenders” and those on the margins of society, he will feel empowered to continue wrecking the lives of the powerless.

John Bowden
6729
HMP Shotts
Cantrell Road
Shotts
Scotland
ML7 4LE