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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 18:00 GMT
Maze escaper is arrested in Texas
The man was arrested by the US Border Patrol in Texas (Picture courtesy of the US Border Patrol )
The man was arrested by the US Border Patrol in Texas
A Maze escaper has been arrested at a border patrol in the United States, American officials have said.

Paul Brennan was arrested by officers at a border checkpoint in southern Texas on Monday night.

The US Border Patrol said Brennan was now in custody and was awaiting deportation.

It said he had been serving a 23-year prison sentence in Northern Ireland on charges of possessing a bomb and a firearm.

Brennan is understood to have produced an out-of-date immigration document at the Sarita checkpoint near Brownsville.

He was identified through fingerprinting after a search of his background through the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Interpol.

"The subject was arrested and is pending deportation proceedings back to his country of origin," said the US Border Patrol.

'Biggest search operation'

Ronald D. Vitiello, chief patrol agent for the Rio Grande Valley Sector, said: "The primary purpose of checkpoint operations is to support enhanced national security efforts that deter, detect and prevent the threat of further terrorist attacks against the United States.

"Consequently, law enforcement partnerships, coupled with Border Patrol checkpoint operation, continue to be a reliable means of detecting people who would attempt to enter the United States illegally and threaten the integrity of border security."

38 republican prisoners escaped from the Maze in 1983
38 republican prisoners escaped from the Maze in 1983

Paul Brennan, Kevin Artt, James Smyth and Terrence Kirby were arrested in the United States between 1992 and 1994 and fought lengthy legal battles against extradition.

Smyth was extradited back to Northern Ireland in 1996 and returned to prison, before being released in 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2000, the British government announced that the extradition requests for Brennan, Artt and Kirby were being withdrawn as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

The men officially remain fugitives, but in 2003 the Prison Service said they were not being "actively pursued".

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: "Pol (Paul Brennan) is not undocumented, after his extradition case was dropped in October 2000, he was granted the right to remain in the US where he has been living and working ever since.

"Pol and his family remain hopeful that this anomaly will be successfully resolved in the near future."

The biggest jail break in the UK history took place from the high security Maze prison on 25 September 1983. On that day 38 republican prisoners escaped.

Prison officer James Ferris died of a heart attack after being stabbed while attempting to stop the jail break.

Security forces mounted the biggest search operation Northern Ireland had ever seen within minutes of the escape.

Ten of the prisoners were recaptured in the first few hours, but the remainder went on the run.

In 1997, a republican prisoner escaped from the jail disguised as a woman, during a Christmas party.

The Maze prison closed in September 2000 as a result of the Good Friday Agreement's early release scheme.

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