Ex-IRA man jailed in US for not disclosing past
13/08/2004 - 07:15:13

A man who was a member of the IRA in the 1970s was sentenced to 35 days in prison for failing to reveal his past on a US customs form.

Joseph Black, 46, of Belfast, was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport on July 7 after he arrived in the United States with his family to attend a niece’s wedding.

Border agents said Black committed a crime when he answered “No” on a form that asked if he had ever been convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude” or been involved in terrorist activities.

Black served time in a prison outside Belfast in the late 1970s for being involved with the IRA and shooting a man in the leg.

Black will get credit for the time he has already spent in jail, meaning that he will have finished his sentence by Saturday. He will then be deported, authorities say.

“We’re happy. The family is happy,” said Black’s brother-in-law, Sean McClorey, of Crafton, Pennsylvania. ”Our wish now is for him to go home as soon as possible.”

Black’s family said he left the IRA after his release from prison and posed no threat to anyone when he arrived in Philadelphia. He pleaded guilty shortly after his arrest in an attempt to speed his return home.

Federal prosecutors agreed that he posed no terrorist threat, but said they were enforcing regulations that bar people with past convictions for violent crimes from coming to the United States without a visa.

“Joe let the judge know that if he ever gets another wedding invitation, he’s going to send a cheque,” McClorey said. “He doesn’t intend to come back to the United States any time soon.”

Black is one of a number of veterans of the Northern Ireland conflict who have been arrested over the past year after travelling to the United States.

Three men from the North were arrested for similar visa breaches in Boston last November after they arrived on a British Airways flight from London. One had failed to reveal a 1986 conviction for an IRA killing. The trio were sentenced to time served, but spent several months in a detention centre awaiting deportation.

John Coyle, 31, of Co Tyrone, was arrested at Philadelphia International on July 27 after he arrived on a flight from London. He was charged with failing to reveal on a customs form that he had been convicted in Belfast in 1996 for throwing a petrol bomb at a police vehicle. Coyle’s case is continuing.

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