The family of Martina Anderson, who has been stood down from Sinn Féin in Derry after an inquiry across the republican movement, say she is the victim of a "miscarriage of justice".
In a post on social media titled "Breaking the Silence", Anderson's sister Sharon Burke said the outgoing MLA and former MEP had been "publicly humiliated" by the party.
"The British could not do to our Martina what her comrades and friends have done," she wrote on Facebook.
Anderson and Karen Mullan – Sinn Féin’s two MLAs for the five-seater Foyle constituency – announced last week that they would not be running again for the Stormont Assembly.
In her statement last week, Anderson pledged her support for her successor, saying that the “national leadership correctly wants to re-energise Sinn Féin in Derry and reconnect it to our base”.
Sinn Féin said the pair were asked to consider their positions in the light of a review into poor electoral results in the city over recent years.
A well-placed source in Sinn Féin said the review was unprecedented and included consulting the “wider republican family”, including families of IRA volunteers who had died.
It looked into claims of “hatred” for the party in Derry and “jobs for the boys”, the party source said.
Saying she was speaking for the Anderson family, Ms Burke said her sister had been used as a “sacrificial lamb” in an attempt to win back support for the party in the city.
“We believe Martina and Karen are being sacrificed by the party, used by this [Sinn Féin] leadership because Martina and Karen are the public face and are being castigated in an attempt to win back support.”
She described as “brutal” the way Anderson was “publicly humiliated”, adding: “We Andersons believe if Martin McGuinness had been alive he would never have allowed this disgraceful tactic to be deployed.”
Anderson, a former member of the Provisional IRA, was jailed in 1986 after she was convicted of conspiring to cause explosions in Britain.
She was released in 1998 under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, having served 14 years of a life sentence, and went on to become a senior figure in Sinn Féin, also holding the position of junior minister in the Stormont Executive.
Ms Burke said her sister “gave everything to the Irish republican struggle, including her biological clock”, adding that “this SF national leadership review that was done in Derry resulted in a massive miscarriage of justice”.
Anderson was “thrown under a bus for problems that she had neither act nor part in” and the “family are crying out for help” to “correct what we believe is a massive miscarriage of justice”, according to the post.
“The Anderson family is calling on our wider republican family in Derry and indeed beyond to reject the way this SF leadership has publicly humiliated our sister Martina, and Karen,” it added.