Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 10:56 UK

Maze escaper faces US deportation

Pól Brennan fled to America after escaping from the Maze
Pól Brennan faces being deported from the United States

Maze prison escaper Pól Brennan has been told he will be deported from the United States by the end of this week.

The Belfast man was arrested at a border checkpoint in Texas in 2008 because his US work permit had expired.

He escaped from the Maze in 1983, along with 37 other republican prisoners.

He had appealed to the head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to overturn the decision, but his lawyer said this had failed.

The appeal was based on the "extreme hardship" his deportation would cause Joanna Volz, his American wife of 20 years.

The Pòl Brennan support group said the decision was wrong and have begun a campaign to have the deportation cancelled.

"This is an unjust decision which goes against everything the US stands for, and it punishes Pòl and his family for his political past," the group said.

"This goes against the tenets of the Good Friday Agreement, which allowed former combatants in the conflict to move on with their lives and not be persecuted for their political pasts."

An online petition calling for a halt to the deportation - active from last April - currently has more than 1,600 signatures.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said Mr Brennan should be arrested despite him no longer being actively pursued by the UK authorities.

"The fact remains that Brennan is a fugitive from justice.

"If and when he arrives in the Republic it therefore behooves HMG to immediately proceed with a European Arrest Warrant and seek to have him extradited to Northern Ireland."

Mr Brennan was arrested in 2008, while driving with his wife to visit friends in Texas.

He was detained at an immigration checkpoint because his work permit had expired. While he had applied to renew the document, authorities had not sent it to him.

Last November, a federal immigration judge ruled he should be deported from the US.

Jail

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

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

Ten of the prisoners were recaptured in the first few hours, but the remainder went on the run with some emerging in north America.

Pól 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".

It is understood that if deported Mr Brennan will be sent to the Republic of Ireland.



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Maze escaper makes final appeal
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Maze escaper is arrested in Texas
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