00016599A cell at Wheatfield prison, Cloverhill Road, Clondalkin, Dublin

An open letter to Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

Madam

I am writing to ask for your response to the treatment of inmates who were sentenced to detention by the courts last week for breach of an injunction restricting their right to assembly, free association and protest under Irish constitutional and European law.

The prisoners have informed us that they have been in solitary confinement since their transfer to Wheatfield Prison, being allowed 1 hour in 24 outside the confines of their locked single prison cells.
Solitary confinement is internationally regarded as the physical isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day.

Meaningful contact or interaction with other people is generally reduced to a minimum, with prisoners in many jurisdictions only allowed out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise each day.

In Ireland, protection prisoners are defined under Rule 63 of the Prison Rules 2007as those prisoners considered to be under threat or at risk from other prisoners “who are reasonably likely to cause significant harm to him”.

Prisoners may be put ‘on protection’ either as a result of a request from the prisoner or after consideration by the prison governor. The majority of prisoners who seek protection do so at committal stage.

The prison service attributes this practice to prisoners’ fear of repercussions related to issues that occurred outside prison (drug debts, gang rivalry and perceived cooperation with Gardaí) rather than the fear of random acts of violence

Isolation or solitary confinement reduces socially and psychologically meaningful contact to a level that is too low for many prisoners to remain mentally healthy. The adverse health effects associated with isolation range from insomnia and confusion to hallucinations and mental illness. These health risks can arise after only a few days and can increase with each additional day spent in isolation
I demand, Madam, on behalf of my friends that you ttop this unjust, illegal, immoral and unwarranted persecution of the jailed water protesters and issue an explanation for the treatment they have received and an apology to them and their distraught families.

Paul Madden
Dublin Says No

Dublin Says No (Facebook)

(Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

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97 thoughts on “Dear Frances

  1. Paolo

    What a load of rubbish. These guys are criminals and now they are trying to elevate themselves to some sort of quasi-freedom fighters. Get a grip.

    If you breach a court order you should expect to go to jail. You don’t get to choose what detention centre you go to.

    1. Mark Dennehy

      Yeah, hold on a second. Solitary confinement isn’t on our list of things you get for breaching a court order. There are rules governing its use. This isn’t some prisoner saying they want to go to a different prison ‘cos they have more recent xbox games there.

      1. Vote Rep #1

        “A prison spokesman said the protesters being held in Wheatfield Prison, Dublin had not been subjected to special conditions. “They have not been on any form of restrictive regime and have full access to all of the facilities and services in the prison,” he said.”

        Prison says that they are telling lies.

        1. Soundings

          So, prison service won’t confirm prisoners are refusing food because they don’t comment on individual prisoners, but they will confirm the conditions in which specific named prisoners are being held. That looks inconsistent.

        2. Mark Dennehy

          If they’re telling lies, that’s also a pretty serious thing, they’re making accusations about the prison service.

          Point is, either it’s happening and it’s serious or it’s not and it’s serious – but you don’t go saying “oh, prisoners don’t get to complain” about this kind of complaint.

          I mean, if someone complains that you can’t get the latest Xbox games in Mountjoy, feel free to mock, but some things you have to look into before laughing at them, just in case…

          1. Mark Dennehy

            Yup, but not in the press, you’d go to the Minister in charge and ask her to…. oh would you look at the content of that letter…

            Paolo, however, didn’t ask the prison service, he just posted on Broadsheet anonymously :P

          2. ReproBertie

            But the prison service, the first port of call when looking into this, have come out and denied the allegations.

            Paul Madden is ignoring this response meaning one of two things. Either he believes the prison service are lying or he doesn’t care about what the prison service says because an open letter to the minister garners more publicity for his buddies in prison.

    2. Rob

      Ah Dude, you picked the wrong forum! Don’t you know this is the “All Panti, no Water charges stolen bike” site!!

    3. Neilo

      Confirm you won’t breach the court’s orderrs and you’ll get out of chokey. Je Suis Derek, indeed.

  2. Atlas

    For fupp’s sake would you stop giving a platform to these muppets? Their detention is neither unjust, illegal immoral nor unwarranted and their perpetual ‘woe is me’ cr*p is getting tiresome. They don’t get to defy court orders restricting them from riding roughshod over the constitutional rights of others without consequences and rightly so.

    1. Zuppy International

      So what law have they broken?

      The answer is none. They have been (unlawfully) detained because a private company wants to insert its commercial imperative between the people and their right to water. These people are defending their lawful rights as affirmed to them by the Irish Constitution, (Articles 1, 6 and 40 in particular). These rights are superior in every way to any corporation’s right to make a profit. It is a perverse judicial decision that sees this in any other way.

      1. Anomanomanom

        You clearly only read/see/hear what you want. It’s been said plenty of times why they got arrested. Again no mention of the idiot threatening the judge with “hell on the streets” if he got jail time.

      2. Paolo

        You are some tool. They contravened a court order. The court ordered them not to interfere with other citizens going about their business and they breached that order. These people are not above the law.

        1. Zuppy International

          Don’t see the mention of “Crime” within the relevant section.

          “if any person shall wilfully insult any justice or justices so sitting in any such court or place, or shall commit any other contempt of any such court, it shall be lawful for such justice or justices by any verbal order either to direct such person to be removed from such court or place, or to be taken into custody, and at any time before the rising of such court by warrant to commit such person to gaol for any period not exceeding seven days, or to fine such person in any sum not exceeding forty shillings.”

          Seems to be more about protecting the judge from “Insults”.

          1. ReproBertie

            Since we’re not solicitors clarification about breaching an act being a crime would appear to be a question for legal coffee drinker.

          2. ReproBertie

            Also, while it does concern itself with judges and insults the act also clearly states “or shall commit any other contempt of any such court” which the 5 protestors did by breaching the injunction.

          3. Atlas

            Broadsheet wouldn’t dare consult LCD on this because they’re implicitly aware that the jailed protestors have absolutely no case. Openly acknowledging that inconvenient fact would mean they couldn’t parrot this nonsense rhetoric and get some clickbait out of it.

      3. Atlas

        The breached a High Court injunction restraining them from interfering with workers lawfully going about their business. Injunctions are equitable remedies that require a person to perform a particular obligation or refrain from carrying out a particular act. Breaching an injunction can lead to a charge of contempt of court, and consequently imprisonment. It’s been a feature of equity for centuries, so it’s not like it was recently concocted by Denis O’Brien to keep these these veritable Freedom Fighters in their place.

        It was granted in this case to prevent these particular ‘protestors’ from ‘harassing’ the GMC Sierra workers lawfully going about their business, i.e. protecting the constitutional rights of the workers. The judge remarked during the hearing that the constitutional right to protest doesn’t override the constitutional right of others to work. Ample evidence was provided showing those people breaching the conditions laid down by the injunction (e.g. not staying more than 20 metres away from the workers, moving barriers etc) and the judge opted for imprisonment over fines to prevent the authority of the court being undermined by further (likely) breaches of the injunction.

        Simple stuff.

        Articles 1 and 6 have zero relevance to this case. Out of Article 40, I presume you’re referring to Art. 40.4.1º which states ‘No citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty save in accordance with law‘. This was in accordance with the law, so no issue here. If you’re referring to the provisions contained in Art. 40.6, again phrases like ‘subject to public order and morality’ and ‘Provision may be made by law to prevent or control meetings which are determined in accordance with law’ appear throughout.

        Freedom and expression/assembly etc aren’t absolutely unlimited, be it under Irish/EU constitutional law or under the ECHR.

        1. Zuppy International

          The ‘constitutional right to work’ cannot be used as an excuse to deny others their right to life or their right to water which is literally and figuratively the nation’s right to life.

          Article 1: The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.

          You’ll notice it doesn’t mention the State, Fianna Fail, Labour, the IMF, the EU, ECB, yet the State, by seeking to impose a private commercial imperative between the nation (the people) and its right to water seeks to deny the nation the right to develop its life political, economic and cultural in accordance with its own genius and traditions.

          Article 6: All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.

          The people are sovereign and the government serves the needs of the people who have the right to final say on all matters of public policy.

          Article 40: The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law..

          1. Atlas

            ‘The ‘constitutional right to work’ cannot be used as an excuse to deny others their right to life or their right to water which is literally and figuratively the nation’s right to life.’

            [citation needed]

            It’s a very tenuous connection you’ve made between the ‘right to (free) water’ and life and the right to ‘protest’ (i.e. act like a complete asshat and harass others lawfully going about their work).

            Note that the judge made a distinction between lawful protest the vast majority of anti-water charge types have been conducting and the carry-on these d*ckbags were getting up to. The actual right to peacefully protest is in no danger here.

            ‘Article 1…etc’
            ‘Article 6… etc’

            I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. Are you saying that the government is illegitimate or what? That it’s not democratically elected in accordance with the constitution? ‘Cos that’s just not the case, as a matter of fact.

            Irish Water isn’t a ‘private commercial imperative’ either. It’s a semi-state body. If you think its activities are unconstitutional, go take it to the Supreme Court.

            ‘Article 40… etc’

            Please explain to me how the dwellings of these protesters are being violated by this.

          2. ollie

            iw meter installers operate without a valid road opening licence, don’t display a contact number at their excavations and don’t carry a safety statement. Therefore they are digging up your footway illegally

          3. Zuppy International

            The state is acting in contempt of the people it is supposed to serve: drunken parliament, crony appointments, preferred bidders for public contracts, the socialisation of private debt, the decimation of public welfare, the whole nine yards: So yes the government is acting in an illegitimate fashion, abusing its own power and position. It’s even twisting the judiciary to its own ends:

            http://www.fairsociety.ie/should-judge-paul-gilligan-be-impeached-removed-from-office/

          4. Atlas

            Just because you personally disagree with the government’s policies doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate and therefore unconstitutional… but supposing for the sake of argument you’re right, why don’t you take it to the Supreme Court? Why tolerate an unconstitutional government when you don’t have to?

            That link is a joke. How exactly is the government strong-arming the judiciary on this one? If that were actually happening I’d be on the protesters’ side, regardless of my contempt for them… but it’s not, so I’m not.

          5. ReproBertie

            Liam Lawlor got 3 months in jail for contempt. Sean Quinn for 9 weeks for the same offence.

            Which corporations were the courts serving when they jailed them?-

          6. Atlas

            That’s an inane copout and you know it. Ireland is not some despotic banana republic. It would be obvious and easily provable if that were the case, but conveniently nobody can ever seem to substantiate those nonsense, hyperbolic claims.

            Do you have any proof those bankers broke any laws? Hand it over to the DPP if you do. I’d like to see them jailed too but unfortunately we have this whole proof beyond all reasonable doubt threshold to cross. You know – human rights, fair trials and all that. Can get in the way sometimes.

            The injunction was perfectly lawful. You asserting otherwise doesn’t affect that.

          7. Zuppy International

            @ RepoBertie

            Did Liam Lawlor or Sean Quinn go straight to Solitary Confinement?

            @ Atlas

            From the Journal article: Judge Martin Nolan said that it would be ‘unjust’ to impose prison sentences on the Anglo pair because a State agency “led them into error and illegality”.

            So a conspiracy to defraud at the highest levels is acknowledged by a judge and SFA is done about it.

          8. Atlas

            They were found guilty (yes, as in convicted) of giving out illegal loans from what I gather. The fact that they acted under clearly negligent legal advice and with the tacit approval of the Financial Regulator (the state agency you declined to name) ought to be taken into account inasmuch as they weren’t the only ones who fupped up.

            You can certainly make a worthwhile argument that the penalties for white collar crime are a bit pathetic. You could argue that in an ideal world, there would’ve been laws that were capable of convicting Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Fingleton etc. The fact that we’re not perfect in every sense doesn’t mean that there’s no judicial independence and democracy in this stable, first world country has failed. Again, it’s just naked hyperbole.

            It also doesn’t take away from the fact that ‘the Five’ broke the law.

  3. Mr. T.

    This has nothing to do with water protests.

    This is the centre-right establishment of Ireland, in place uninterrupted since 1922 starting a campaign of arrests and imprisonment of political and ideological opponents. The established parties (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour) are absolutely scared stiff of the rise of a political movement that could see the end to their self serving grip on Irish institutions which they use to enrich themselves and their friends.

    Things like the arrests of Claire Daily and Mick Wallace for traffic offenses are entirely politically driven. You can absolutely certain that members of FF and FG have been stopped for drink driving or worse and have been let off by friends in the police and judiciary. The law only applies to people who are not at the centre of power and influence.

    As an election looms in 2016 or earlier, you can expect far worse to come and very dirty tricks employed by establishment politicians, media, police, business interests and very likely, American and other foreign governments who have an interest in Ireland maintaining a centre-right only regime.

    Interment without trial is more or less what’s happening with these court orders.

  4. Rob_G

    They should be delighted, think how good a campaign story this will be when they are running for election for the Socialist Party Anti-Austerity Alliance

      1. Vote Rep #1

        The prison spokesman states that they are not been on any form of restrictive regime and have full access to all of the facilities.

          1. Lorcan Nagle

            I know, you’d almost think I used the word alleges instead of claiming it was a proven fact or something.

    1. Starina

      i would imagine the general population there wouldn’t have any problem with them. they’d probably be hailed as heroes for sticking it to the government, to be honest.

    2. Vote Rep #1

      Maybe the warden is afraid that they will be having lesbian affairs? Or maybe I’ve been watching too much Orange is the new Black

    3. Don Pidgeoni

      Most likely just in case something happened, cause you know, it looks pretty bad anyway and all it would take to really light things up in one of them to have a little accident

    1. Zarathustra

      Actually, Diddley Eye, you might not be far off the mark. When a prisoner goes on hunger strike they are put in solitary confinement for a couple of reasons; to ensure that no other inmates can give them food, otherwise inmates could happily be munching away for months on end on the quiet, while claiming to be on hunger strike to further their cause; also, they have to be monitored 24/7 by a doctor, a facility the Training Unit doesn’t have. The inmates can take the decision at any time to start eating again, then they will be returned to the Training Unit.

  5. bobsyerauntie

    Why do some Irish people not support these Irish water protesters? They are protesting not just for the basic right to water now, but also for the right to protest, and now some are incarcerated in a situation which is obviously politically motivated and due to heavy political policing- anyone who can’t see this is blind and willfully ignorant. Our country is turning into a quasi-fascist state, anyone who stands up to stop this oppression should be supported.

    https://gombeenisland.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/gombeens-paradise/

    1. ReproBertie

      Perhaps some people understand the need to pay more to fund the maintenance and upgrade of the water system. Perhaps they think the fairest way to charge for that is by usage and recognise that charging for water usage requires meters.

      Perhaps they feel that the court injunction was justified to counter the intimidation of workers and don’t see breaching that injunction as a cause worth rallying round.

      Perhaps they don’t agree with the notion that jailing people for contempt of court is political.

      Not everyone shares the same world view.

      1. bobsyerauntie

        I understand all the points you are making but that still doesn’t justify political policing..
        When you start setting precedents like that and criminalizing protesters and activists it’s very dangerous territory, but maybe you’re comfortable with quasi-fascism?..

        1. ReproBertie

          You are labelling it political policing based on nothing more than your perception which is coloured by your support of the protestors.

          Protest has not been criminalised so spare us the hyperbole.

          1. bobsyerauntie

            I am not labeling it political policing- it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain cell that this is politically motivated jailing of the most vocal and visible of the water protesters. The Irish government, the judiciary, and the Gardai are clamping down because people are standing up to austerity. I don’t agree with some of the behavior at some of the protests, by some individual water protesters, however I think they have a right to protest effectively. I’ll spare you the hyperbole if you spare me the cold, clinical, heartless, smug, passive aggressive attitude…

          2. ReproBertie

            It’s obvious that these protestors were jailed for breaching an injunction. Labelling it political requires the belief that the protestors are above the law and free to ignore the judgement of the court.

          3. Anne

            Martin Luther King Jr.
            “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
            ― Martin Luther King Jr.

            Howard Zinn
            “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”
            ― Howard Zinn

            Aristotle
            “It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
            ― Aristotle, Selected Writings From The Nicomachean Ethics And Politics

            “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”
            ― Martin Luther King Jr

          4. bobsyerauntie

            The judiciary are appointed by the state.
            The decisions they make in cases such as this are political.
            There were dawn raids on protesters the week before.
            And the Gardai are arresting people for protesting meters in their areas.
            The Gardai are being used as the state/Irish Water’s private security firm.
            The Judiciary/the law is being used against the will of the people.
            This is political policing and you would need to be blind, naive and ignorant not to notice what is going on in this country at the moment. It is extremely disturbing and if we are not careful we will end up in a dictatorship..

            http://www.politicalworld.org/archive/index.php/t-12522.html

            http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/revealed-judges-and-their-links-to-political-parties-26792896.html

          5. Lorcan Nagle

            Political policing does not mean you’re arresting people who haven’t comitted a crime, but that you’re arresting them or selectively applying laws for political reasons. For example, politicians in Ireland have been held up in their cars by protestors on many occasions in the past, most notably Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern – and nobody was arrested. Sending teams of 7-10 gardai to conduct dawn raids to round up protestors, including teenage boys can only be interpreted as a message to the rest of the ‘mob’ – stay at home or you’ll get the same.

            I don’t necessarily agree that the actions in Jobstown were the right decision, but people are clearly angry about Irish Water, and coming down on the protestors like a ton of bricks, not to mention attempting to demonise them in the Dáil, in public statements and in the media is only making people angrier. And angry people make rash decsions and they lash out. Labour especially are seen as betraying their voter base, and with context (and I’ll admit, agreeing with the protestors’ core mssage) I can understand why they did what they did. The government’s reaction has been oil on the fire though.

            Similarly, the 5 protestors currently in prison did break a court order, but the system failed when a court order needed to be issued in the first place. Enda Kenny’s time in office has been a litany of such failures, where we’ve been lectured, spoken down to and told to sit down and shut up while our betters decide what happens. People have reached the last straw however, and all he’s left with is sheer intimidation.

        2. ReproBertie

          Bobsyerauntie you love tossing around fascist and dictatorship as if it somehow adds meaning to your argument.

          Your belief that the protestors are in the right does not justify any and all actions by protestors. We have laws in this country and the gardaí are paid to enforce those laws. All the inspirational quotes in the world won’t change the fact that the laws, just or unjust depending on your opinion, will be enforced and that sometimes means arrests. That said I do not know of a single case of a protestor being arrested for protesting. About 200 protestors brought much of Dublin’s North inner city to a standstill last week before protesting outside Mountjoy and none were arrested.

          Due to intimidation by protestors the gardaí now have to waste time ensuring protestors can protest and Irish Water workers can do their jobs. If people are being arrested at these protests it is not because they are protesting.

          The gardaí obviously believe that what happened in Jobstown is worthy of investigation. We’ll have to wait and see if the DPP and courts agree.

          You believe the protestors are in the right and as a result you see every move against them as a political move. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    2. Keith

      I don’t support the protestors because I don’t believe water is a right. It is a service that needs to be paid for.

      There is no shortage of protesting going on so I don’t think that is in any jeopardy. “The 5” weren’t jailed because they were protesting. The were jailed because they were not allowed to protest within 20 meters of workmen doing their job.

      But I think all this ground has been covered in this site over the last few days.

      Granted people have really different opinions, and I think once you chose a position on the issue, a lot of the related issues become framed by that initial decision. For example, water protestors seeing the arrests as political policing. Pro-water people (is that a thing?) tarring all protestors as scumbags because they heard a few of them acting the maggot on youtube.

      1. bobsyerauntie

        I think your thinking is extremely black and white, and I think that most people have more complex opinions on these issues than you realize.
        You say you don’t support the Irish water protestors, that’s fair enough, but what if the government decided to sell our forests tomorrow, or our national monuments, or islands? to pay an austerity tax for our debts? would you support that? would you protest that? and say for example you felt very passionate about an issue like that, an issue which you believed was wrong, morally, legally, constitutionally and ethically wrong. Something which affected your conscience deeply, would you then stand up and protest? and say if you did stand up and protest and a say then a judge made a court order saying you weren’t allowed within 20 meters of the forest, or the island (whatever it was which you felt passionate enough to fight for) therefore nullifying the effectiveness of your protest, would you break the order? would you disrespect an unjust order, an unjust law?

        1. Keith

          You make some really good points bobsyerauntie. I respect everyone who gets off their couch and goes out to protest. No problem at all with it, even if I disagree with the position.

          I guess I just don’t think protesting the workmen installing the meters is a valid one. It strikes me more as intimidation.

          I also think it was the major street protests all over the country, the fact that they weren’t confined to Dublin, and not meter installation protests, that forced the government to change its policy on the issue.

          Thanks for your reply though, I will keep it in my mind going forward.

      2. Nigel

        I challenge even the most ardent supporter of the principle of water charging to defend the implementation here in Ireland and to stand over the implications that has for the way this country is, and will continue to be, governed.

        1. bobsyerauntie

          Great comment Nigel :)

          It’s easy to see how dictatorships and fascist states emerge when you see how some people just go along like a herd of sheep off a cliff…

        2. ReproBertie

          I don’t think anyone could defend the shambolic way Irish Water is being set up. I believe it’s simply the inability to admit a mistake that prevents the government from shutting it down and starting again.

        3. Miko

          I’ll bite. What was wrong with the implementation up until the hiatus on metered billing. Its the same system that exists in every other developed country. I expect the usual torrent of lies, dishonest statements and an inability to comprehend what it takes to run a modern utility but go on! give it a shot….

          1. ReproBertie

            The litany of overspending, the bonus/no-bonus farce, the ever moving deadline, the PPS storm, the fiasco of the constantly revising rates, the awarding of the meter installation contracts.

            It’s hard to find anything they did right.

    3. Trueblueterry

      This argument that water is a basic human right and therefore we don’t have to pay for it really irks me because under the same rationale we should not have to pay for food.

          1. Anne

            Obviously an error in your reasoning more like.

            Because the funds haven’t been allocated, doesn’t mean we don’t (didn’t) pay enough

            oh would you be bothered….

          2. bobsyerauntie

            @ReproBertie

            As David Norriss would say, “you’re talking through yer fanny”..

            This is an austerity stealth tax. Irish Water has been set up in order to squeeze more money out of the Irish public. It has nothing to do with saving water, conservation, fixing pipes or leaks. If that was the case then why didn’t they spend the hundreds of millions it cost to set up the quango on fixing pipes and leaks etc instead? Because they don’t give a crap about the leaking water, they only care about the water which they are trying to force us to pay for- water which as already been paid for many times over! If the system is not fit for purpose, then why are they trying to sell us water from a system not fit for purpose, and if the system is so bad, where did all the billions go over the years which was supposedly been paid to maintain it?

            Irish Water is set up in order to appease the Troika, that’s a fact, and no amount of propaganda is going to blur the truth!

          3. ReproBertie

            You’re right about one thing. It was set up under the agreement with the troika as a way of creating a steady, reliable revenue stream for government to reduce the possibility of another crash. Of course that being its purpose makes a nonsense of the privatisation argument.

            That said, you may have missed their plan released last week where they plan to fix leaks and remove all boil notices by 2021 which suggests they do give a crap about the leaking water.

  6. Diddley Aye

    So its over. The Fat Four have valiantly called a halt to their mini diet. Not since Mick Wallace ahem “sold” his Tuscany vineyard to his brother have we seen such an act of self sacrifice by revolting Socialists.
    Remember where you were this day.

    1. scottser

      You are a truly odious troll. You’d almost make someone wish you ill. Enjoy your self-abuse, you deserve it.

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