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Maze governor admits inmates were beaten

THE GOVERNOR of the Maze prison in Northern Ireland yesterday admitted to a US court that guards brutalised inmates after a mass republican breakout in 1983, and afterwards lied about the attacks.

But he said the officers had never been disciplined and there were no plans to do so.

John Baxter, who took up the prison governor's post this July, confirmed to a federal district court in San Francisco that after the escape, republican prisoners were forced to run a gauntlet of guard dogs, which were unleashed and allowed to bite them.

He agreed that the prison guards later lied in court by denying the prisoners had suffered dog bites. The victims subsequently received a total of more than pounds 160,000 in damages. But he said no inmates now held at the Maze were at risk.

Mr Baxter was called as a witness by Mark Zanides, who is representing the British government in its efforts to extradite Jimmy Smyth, 39, who was convicted of attempting to murder a prison official and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1978. He escaped from the Maze in 1983.

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, the prominent Irish nationalist and former independent MP, told the court that her life could be in danger because she had agreed to testify. Miss McAliskey gave graphic accounts of security forces alleged harassment and killing of republican prisoners. She told how she and her husband were shot by loyalist gunmen children 13 years ago.

The case continues.