Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Sunday, 15 June 2008 15:34 UK

Leaders urged to press president

By Arthur Strain
BBC News

protest in Belfast
Protesters called for an end to rendition flights

Northern Ireland's leaders have been urged to raise the issue of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay with President George Bush during his visit to Belfast.

On Sunday, Amnesty International staged a protest over rendition flights and conditions in Guantanamo.

Up to 40 activists dressed in orange jumpsuits marched through Belfast city centre.

One of the "detainees", Matt Sloan, said they wanted to raise awareness in Northern Ireland of the situation.

The Queen's University student, from Carrickfergus in County Antrim, was one of the Amnesty members who dressed in as "detainees" to be berated by four uniformed "guards" as they were dragooned through the city centre.

The procession was led by man in a George Bush mask, who ripped up sheet of paper labelled Geneva Convention as he went.

"I've been aware of the Guatanamo Bay issue since after 9/11," Mr Sloan said.

"I hope this raises awareness of what's happening there and they close it down as well as raising awareness of torture."

Amnesty has also written to the first and deputy first ministers asking them to raise the issues with the president.

Matt Sloan
Student Matt Sloan took part in the protest as a detainee

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director, said people were concerned about human rights.

He wants Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to call on President Bush to put an end to the controversial interrogation technique of waterboarding.

The method simulates drowning and has been condemned as torture by rights groups.

"Many, many people in Northern Ireland share our concern about the human rights abuses that have been committed in the name of the so-called war on terror," he said.

"And while we know there will be various demonstrations during the president's visit on Monday we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight these very serious concerns."

In the letter Mr Corrigan said: "There is a broad consensus that Guantanamo should close.

"I urge you to discuss in detail how and when the USA is intending to do this and how EU countries might be able to help."

The protest attracted glances from city centre shoppers, with one passing motorist shouting: "God bless George Bush."

There are a variety of protests planned for the visit on Monday. Police have said they will be "actively patrolling" the Belfast area but have warned traffic disruption is likely.

"It is our aim to minimise as much as possible any disruption to members of the public," a spokeswoman said.




SEE ALSO
No fly zone over Bush city visit
13 Jun 08 |  Northern Ireland

RELATED BBC LINKS


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific