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Gerry Conlon, wrongly imprisoned for IRA bombing, dies at 60

By Susanna Capelouto and Peter Taggart, CNN
June 22, 2014 -- Updated 1444 GMT (2244 HKT)
The story of Gerry Conlon's struggle for freedom was told in the film
The story of Gerry Conlon's struggle for freedom was told in the film "In the Name of the Father." Conlon is shown in 2005.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, dies at age 60
  • Conlon was wrongly convicted in the 1974 IRA bombing of Guildford pub
  • He spent 15 years in prison and was released in 1989
  • His story is told in the film "In the Name of the Father"

(CNN) -- Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly imprisoned for the IRA Guildford pub bombing in England in 1974, died Saturday in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was 60.

He was one of the Guildford Four, who were falsely convicted by the British courts and eventually freed in 1989. Conlon had been ill for some time.

"We recognize that what he achieved by fighting for justice for us had a far, far greater importance -- it forced the world's closed eyes to be opened to injustice," his family said in a statement.

The story of Conlon's struggle for freedom was told in the film "In the Name of the Father."

"I served 15 years for a crime I did not commit," Conlon said when he finally walked out of prison in 1989, following an appeals court decision to throw out the sentences of the Guildford Four after doubts were raised about the police evidence.

It wasn't until 2005 that British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized to the Guildford Four, calling the false convictions a miscarriage of justice.

"They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated," Blair said at the time.

Members of the Conlon and Maguire families were jailed in connection with the 1974 Irish Republican Army bombings in Guildford and Woolwich in England. The attacks killed seven people and injured more than 100. Conlon was originally implicated in the Guildford blast.

All 11 people convicted in the attacks were later acquitted.

Tributes

The leader of Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Dr. Alasdair McDonnell, expressed condolences to Conlon's partner and daughter. He called the miscarriage of justice Conlon and his father, Giuseppe, suffered terrible and appalling.

"He was a shinning light in the search for truth and a tireless campaigner for justice. The SDLP, the wider community and I will miss Gerry," McDonnell said. " May he rest in peace."

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he was saddened by Conlon's death.

"Gerry Conlon and his father Giuseppe were two of the most infamous examples of miscarriages of justice by the British political and judicial system," Adams said. "To his family and friends I want to extend my sincere condolences."

Eamon Gilmore, Ireland's minister of foreign affairs, reflected on Conlon's years after prison.

"In later years, Gerry drew from his experiences to campaign on behalf of others with the group Miscarriages of Justice Organisation," Gilmore said. "His loss will be felt both within the community in West Belfast and across the world with all those who work in pursuit of justice."

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CNN's Mary Rose Fox contributed to this story

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