Roger Casement sentenced to death
London, 29 June 1916 - Sir Roger Casement was today found guilty of high treason and has been sentenced to death.
The Lord Chief Justice – assisted by two other judges – passed the sentence at the King’s Bench.
The charge of high treason was defined under a 1351 statute as ‘levying war against the King or being adherent to the King's enemies in his realm, giving them aid and comfort in the realm or elsewhere’.
The fact that the trial proceeded based on this statute led Sir Roger Casement to state that he had been tried, ‘not by the civilisation of the twentieth century, but by the brutality of the fourteenth.’
In a final speech to the court, Casement had said that he wished to correct inaccurate evidence put before the court:
‘I never asked an Irishman to fight for Germany. I have always claimed that an Irishman has no right to fight for any other land but Ireland. The abhorrent insinuation that I got my peoples’ rations reduced because they refused to join the Irish Brigade is an abominable falsehood….The other suggestion that men were sent to punishment camps at my instance for not joining the Irish Brigade is one that I need hardly pause to deal with. It is devoid of all foundation.
‘...there is widespread imputation of German gold...Those who know me know the nature of this malicious invention, for they know that through all my past record I have never sold myself to any man or to any government, and I have never allowed any government to use me. From the first moment that I landed on the continent until I came home again to Ireland I neither asked for nor accepted a single penny of foreign money, either for myself or for any Irish cause or for any purpose whatever, but only the money of Irishmen.’
He thanked those English friends who had stood by him and concluded:
‘I must state categorically that the rebellion was not made in Germany, was not directed from Germany, was not inspired from Germany, and not one penny of German gold went to finance it.’
When Sir Roger Casement concluded his speech, the three judges donned traditional black caps and passed the sentence of death.
An appeal is to be lodged.
[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]