The family of Bobby Sands, the political prisoner who died on hunger strike in 1981, have called for the release of Brendan Lillis from jail.

Lillis was sentences to life in prison in 1977 on explosive charges. He was released on license after serving 17 years, but was re-arrested in 2009 and was informed he would have to serve the remainder of his life sentence. The new charges against the Belfast man were shelved as due to his poor health, he was considering unfit to stand trial.

The 59-year-old Belfast man is currently being treated for Ankylosing Spondylitis, arthritis of the spine in the hospital wing of Maghaberry prison.

In a statement endorsed by the Sands family and other former 1981 hunger strike member, they call for the release of Lillis.

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“Brendan Lillis is dying in Maghaberry Prison because of the same refusal of government authorities to govern with humanity, compassion, respect for human dignity and in compliance with International Human Rights standards and obligations,” the statement read.

“The1998 Agreement promised a Human Rights framework and Bill of Rights to ensure people here would never again be deemed ineligible for protection of their rights because of their politics or actions,” it added.

Earlier this week parole officers denied his early release from prison.

Lillis’s partner Rosin Lynch held a four-day hunger strike last week to highlight the issue.