Irish Echo Online - News

Lawyer says O'Cealleagh will fight deportation
By Joe O'Neill

SAN FRANCISCO -- A former political prisoner who served over eight years in the Maze Prison appeared in court in Southern California on March 23 to face charges by the INS that could lead to his deportation.

Sean O'Cealleagh, 35, was detained on Feb. 25 at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned from a trip to Ireland for a family visit, accompanied by his 3-year-old son, and has remained in INS custody since his arrest.

At his court appearance, O'Cealleagh was granted an evidentiary hearing, by Judge Rose Peters, which is scheduled for April 20-22.

San Francisco attorney Jim Byrne, who was brought into the case as a co-consul by O'Cealleagh's lawyer, John Farrell, because of his expertise in immigration law, said last week that their client will vigorously defend his right to remain in the United States.

Byrne was part of the defense team during the extraditions cases in San

Francisco against the H-Block escapees, Jimmy Smyth, Pol Brennan, Terence Kirby and Kevin Barry Artt.

The INS will argue that O'Cealleagh was convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude" and therefore should not be admitted to the United States.

O'Cealleagh and two other men, who were later to be known as the "Casement Three," were convicted in aiding and abetting in the killing, by the IRA, of two British Special Air Service corporals who were dragged from their car which had crashed the funeral cortege of IRA volunteer Kevin Brady, in 1988. Brady, had been killed a few days earlier, at the funeral of IRA members killed by an SAS unit in

Gibraltar. In a grenade and gun attack on that funeral by loyalist gunman Michael Stone, three people were killed and over 60 people injured.

Convicted in the no-jury Diplock court, O'Cealleagh has always protested his innocence and a public campaign was organized around three of those convicted, to have the "Casement Three" released. O'Cealleagh was eventually released under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

Byrne said that on his Green Card application his client had given full disclosure of his conviction. "Therefore," HE SAID, "the Immigration service must have deemed that the offense was political otherwise they should not have given him a Green Card. If they deemed that the offense was criminal, then they should have asked for a waiver. Instead they gave him a green card. Therefore, they made a determination that the offense was political."

O'Cealleagh was granted his green card in 2001 and his wife, Geraldine, is an American citizen. He is employed as a bartender at an Irish bar, O'Malley's, where owner, friends and patrons held a fundraiser that raised more than $7,000 toward his legal expenses.

This story appeared in the issue of March 31-April 6, 2004

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