Maze escapee Brennan is ordered to stay in US jail
Published 28/08/2008 | 10:47
An American immigration appeals court has upheld Maze escapee Pol Brennan’s bail denial, just weeks after three US Congressman wrote to the Department of Homeland Security calling for the Ballymurphy native be freed on bond.
In its ruling this week, the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Virginia, agreed with a Texan judge’s April ruling that Brennan is a danger to society.
The court said his 1984 entry into America using an alias, and his subsequent purchase of a targeting pistol using the alias, proved that he has criminal tendencies. The court also cited his 2005 misdemeanor assault conviction after a builder allegedly refused to pay Brennan $1,000 in back wages.
Brennan insists the contractor attacked him. He was found guilty and had to pay a $1,500 fine and performed 500 hours of community service.
Unlike the judge who’s been handling Brennan’s case since he was detained for having a lapsed US work permit in Texas in January, the Board of Immigration Appeals court didn't deem Brennan a flight risk.
In a letter sent to Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff in July, three Congressmen — New York Republicans Peter King and Jim Walsh, and Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal — insisted that Brennan’s honoring of bail terms when he was twice freed from US jails while Britain sought his extradition in the 1990s proves that he isn’t a flight risk.
In 1977, Brennan was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being caught moving explosives through Belfast. In September 1983, he was among 38 IRA prisoners who escaped the Maze. A decade later, he was arrested by the FBI living in Berkeley, California.
In 2000, Britain dropped its extradition case against him. US authorities then gave him permission to work in the San Francisco area pending resolution of his residency status.
On January 27, as Brennan and his American wife were driving to visit friends in Texas, he was detained over the lapsed work permit.
Although he’d applied to renew his permit, US authorities hadn’t yet sent it to him.
Department of Homeland Security prosecutors now want him deported for entering the US illegally in 1984.
Brennan was held at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas until late July. On July 22, a day before Hurricane Dolly slammed into Texas, he and hundreds of others were evacuated. Over the next 18 days, he endured three long-distance prison relocations, traversing nearly 2,000 miles of Texas and New Mexico in the process.
He’s now at the Willacy County Processing Center (WCPC) in Raymondville, Texas.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph by phone from WCPC on Tuesday, Brennan said he’s frustrated that the misdemeanor assault conviction continues to dog him because, “it was self-defence. The guy got aggressive with me first”, he claimed.
He added: “I’m disappointed with the ruling, but I’m not surprised.
“I wasn’t expecting anything different. But now we’ll take (the bail appeal) to the federal level.”
Brennan’s next deportation hearing is on September 24.