Wednesday 21 March 2018

Muslim went on hunger strike over Irish prison conditions

A DEVOUT Muslim wanted in the US on a terrorism charge went on hunger strike for 22 days over his conditions in an Irish prison, the High Court heard.

Ali Charaf Damache (47), an Algerian-born Irish citizen with an address at John Colwyn House, High Street, Waterford, has brought an action against the State alleging inhuman and degrading conditions in his detention in the prision between late 2010 and 2012 while he was awaiting trial.

In his action against the prison governor, the Irish Prison Services, The Minister for Justice, Ireland and the Attorney General, he is seeking declarations including that his constitutional and rights and rights under the European Convention of Human Rights to practice his religion freely were breached.

He is also seeking damages. The State denies the claims and say his rights were not breached.

Mr Damache has since been moved from Cork Prison and is currently on remand at Cloverhill Prison pending the outcome of a request from the US for his extradition.

He claims that despite his requests the prison did not provided him with halal meat, nor water to wash with before praying, was allowed one shower only per week, and that an Iman was not provided for Friday prayers.

He also claims he was subjected to insults and abuse by both fellow inmates and prison staff and a drawing of a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed in an insulting manner was left in his cell. He said that he was threatened by non-muslim cellmates.

He also had to use chamber pots in the cells, slop out every morning and the hygiene in the prison's toilet area was poor.

Yesterday, on his second day in the witness box, Mr Damache a father of three who had previously worked as a door-to-door insurance salesman ,said his health deteriorated during his incarceration in Cork. He was prescribed medication for depression and was suicidal and attempted self harm while in Cork Prison. 

As a result of the conditions and the fact his complaints were being ignored, Mr Damache said he went on hunger strike for 22 days.

He told his counsel Micheal O'Higgins that his mental condition, including the fact that he could shower daily was much better after he was moved to Cloverhill Prison. There were better facilities for prisoners and his religious belief were better catered for in Cloverhill.

Under cross examination from Tony O'Connor SC for the State, Mr Damache denied he was exaggerating.

The case before Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne continues.

Last year Mr Damache pleaded guilty at Waterford Circuit Court to making a menacing phone call to an American lawyer in 2010. He was sentenced to four years in jail with the final year suspended for making the phone call to Michigan-based attorney Majed Moughni.

He was released from custody due to time served. He was re-arrested immediately by gardaí on foot of an extradition warrant from the US. He is wanted there on a charge of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Irish Independent

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