Campaigner’s fight for Thalidomide victim

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A Thalidomide campaigner from Harrogate is flying to the States this week in an attempt to free a fellow sufferer from an American prison.

Harrogate businessman Guy Tweedy, who famously secured the freedom of fellow Thalidomider Billy Burton from a Filipino jail, has now taken up the case of Mark Gizewski.

Fifty-three-year-old Gizewski, who has a mental age of 10, is supported financially by the Cambridgeshire-based Thalidomide Trust after his parents emigrated to New York whilst his mother was pregnant with him.

He has served his sentence in Five Points Correctional Facility, New York, for a string of petty crimes, and is now being detained for his original sentence, for which Mr Tweedy says he should be on permanent parole. Mr Tweedy, who is travelling to New York tomorrow (Friday) to meet with Gizewski’s lawyers, says US prison authorities have subjected him to physical violence, intimidation and have neglected his medical needs.

“Mark’s case is one of the saddest I have ever come across in all my years’ campaigning on behalf of fellow victims,” said Mr Tweedy.

“I believe Mark is being victimised and that is why I am flying to America to take up his case. I’m determined to help him as I did with Billy Burton. I was reduced to tears when I read about his deformities and the way he has been treated in prison. This poor man has had a shocking life from the moment he was born.”

Mr Gizewski was born with a number of deformities including dwarfism, scoliosis of the spine, severe deformity to his limbs and sphincter, bilateral radial club hands and several other medical issues. He is now a full-time wheelchair user and suffers from learning difficulties attributed to spending the first five years of his life in hospital.

“Because of his learning disabilities he fell into the wrong crowd, and, subsequently found himself on the wrong side of the law,” said Mr Tweedy. “His treatment in prison has been diabolical. His pleas for help and medication to ease his chronic pain fell on deaf ears and the injuries he sustained are truly shocking.

“During his time in the Filipino jail, Billy Burton was never treated this badly. Those who run Five Points should hang their heads in shame.”

Mr Tweedy has already begun lobbying the American Ambassador in London, New York State Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schuner, and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I’m determined by the time I leave for home he will have a parole date set,” he said. “Giving up is not is my nature - American prison authorities will come to understand this.”