Jail conditions forced Muslim into hunger strike

A devout Muslim, wanted in the US on a terrorism charge, has told the High Court he went on hunger strike for 22 days because of what he says were the inhuman and degrading conditions he was subjected to while detained at Cork Prison.

Ali Charaf Damache, aged 47, an Algerian-born Irish citizen with an address at John Colwyn House, High St, Waterford, has brought the action against the State arising out of his detention at Cork Prison between late 2010 and 2012 while he was awaiting trial.

In his High Court action against the governor of Cork Prison, the Irish Prison Services, the justice minister, and the Attorney General, Mr Damache is seeking declarations including that his constitutional rights and rights under the European Convention of Human Rights to practice his religion freely were breached.

He is also seeking damages. The State parties deny the claims and reject that his rights were breached during his detention in Cork.

Mr Damache has since been moved from Cork 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 provide him with halal meat, nor water to wash with before praying, was allowed one shower only per week, and that an imam was not provided for Friday prayers.

He 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.

Yesterday, during his second day in the witness box, Mr Damache a father of three, said his health deteriorated during his incarceration in Cork. He was prescribed medication for depression, and was suicidal and attempted self-harm in Cork Prison.

As a result of the conditions and the claim that his complaints to the prison authorities were ignored, Mr Damache said he went on hunger strike for 22 days.

Under cross-examination from Tony O’Connor, for the State, Mr Damache denied he was exaggerating conditions in Cork Prison.

The case continues.


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