A CLOSE friend of Martin Corey has told how he has not given up hope of release despite spending the last three years in prison.
The 62-year-old Lurgan man was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1973 for the murder of two RUC officers in a Provisional IRA ambush in Aghalee.
He was released in June 1992 then taken back into custody on April 16, 2010 based on “closed material”, stating that he had broken the terms of his licence.
Jim McIlmurray, a close friend of Mr Corey’s said: “When he was released by the prison authorities in 1992 he began to rebuild his life.
“It was a proud day for Martin when he was granted a loan to purchase his own mechanical digger. After a time, he gained the contract as the parish grave digger, covering several cemeteries in the greater Lurgan area. Many people, myself included, will recall his compassionate approach and professionalism during the time of families’ bereavement.
“In all the time I have known Martin, I have only known his interests to be his family, his friends and his love of coarse fishing.”
Jim continued: “On Friday, April 16, 2010, the police arrived at his O’Neill’s Terrace home and told him they had a warrant for his arrest. Martin was brought to Lurgan PSNI station and later that day transferred to Maghaberry prison. It was stated he broke the terms of his ‘Life Licence’ release. When his solicitor requested to know what Martin was alleged to have done, he was told it a matter of National Security and the subject of closed file information.
“For the past three years, his solicitor and barristers have challenged his unlawful detention on numerous occasions in the High Court.”
On Monday, July 9, 2012, Justice Seamus Tracy, ordered Martin Corey’s immediate release, stating that his Human Rights had been breached under Sections 4 and 5 of the European Human Rights Act and that there were no charges for which he should answer.
Jim said: “I waited for four hours outside Maghaberry with Martin’s family that day, only to be told at 4.15pm that the then current Secretary of State, Owen Patterson, had overruled the High Court judge and blocked Martin’s release. I was 25 yards away from Martin when I received that call. I watched him step out of the prison van at the reception centre and watched him walk back to the van to be returned to his cell. As he got into the van, he paused and stared at me and that will always be one of the hardest and cruellest moments I have ever witnessed in my life.”
Jim said Mr Corey has been subjected to a number of incidents during his time in Maghaberry Prison. He claimed: “These incidents include waiting over three weeks for an emergency dental appointment; of note, a veterinarian would have a legal obligation to report a pet owner for cruelty if he found an animal to be suffering for that period.
“Also, Martin’s request for compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his brother was denied by both the Prison Service and the Courts without any reasons given. He was only granted leave to attend one hour before the service started after a request was made to the Justice Minister on humanitarian grounds.”
Jim added: “Martin’s case has been in the High Court in Belfast several times over the past three years, without any finding of criminal offence with which to charge him. There is no other name for his illegal detention other than internment without trial.
“As a close friend of Martin’s, I am in a better position than most to know if he was ever involved in any activity that could be deemed illegal or “a threat to National Security”, a phrase often utilized by faceless, nameless individuals in the courts. I can say without fear of contradiction that Martin is an innocent man.
“I speak to Martin by phone on a daily basis and visit him regularly in Maghaberry Prison, and can assure everyone that his spirits remain high despite his total lack of confidence in the judicial system in the North of Ireland. He thanks everyone for their continued messages of support. We are currently awaiting a date to attend the Court of Appeal in London to challenge his illegal detention.
“If unsuccessful there, we will take his case to the European Courts of Justice. We will continue our presence at the Belfast High Court to request the Parole Board to give an explanation as to why Martin has been denied his legal right to an annual Parole Review.”