Speculation is mounting that veteran republican Colin Duffy — currently in custody after being charged with the murder of two soldiers — intends to stand in the forthcoming European elections after his family revealed details of a public meeting to be held in Lurgan this week.
Mr Duffy’s brother Paul said: “Over the past number of weeks our family and a number of close friends have met together on a very regular basis to discuss and to plan a way forward which will secure Colin’s release and his return to his wife Martine, his children and to our wider family circle.
“As part of that process family members met with and held lengthy and very positive discussions with quite a number of people from various walks of life across the six counties.
“During those discussions we received great encouragement and very constructive advice as we explored the various options open to us in developing an effective campaign which would expose the unjust imprisonment and the continued persecution by the State of Colin.”
Mr Duffy said that one option the family has explored would be the possibility of putting Colin Duffy forward as a candidate in the forthcoming European elections.
“On Wednesday night we will be announcing our considered decision in relation to that option,” he said.
“At that meeting we will also be setting out six elements or strands which will collectively form the basis of our overall campaign to secure Colin's release.”
Sources close to the remand prisoner have refused to be drawn on what his intentions are over the election, which would be pitched as a direct challenge to Sinn Fein’s electoral dominance.
Paul Duffy also said there had been similarities between his brother’s arrest “and recent high-profile cases involving members of the Islamic community in Britain”.
He said: “Like Colin, innocent people were arrested amid a blaze of publicity and held under the same legislation which permits detention for up to 28 days.
“Like Colin, they were tried and convicted by some sections of the media. Yet those arrests have now been shown to have had no evidential basis whatsoever, but were purely politically motivated arrests.
“That has proven to be the case on previous occasions when Colin was unjustly arrested and imprisoned in 1993 and 1997. We firmly believe that the same will again be proven to be the case in relation to his present unjust and politically motivated arrest and imprisonment.”
Mr Duffy was one of several people arrested in the wake of the murders of the two solders at Massereene Barracks in Antrim in March.
He is well-known as a hardline republican who severed his association with Sinn Fein over its move towards power-sharing at Northern Ireland's assembly.
He has also been associated with the republican group eirigi and was recently seen protesting against a homecoming parade in Belfast for soldiers returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The public meeting will be held at 8pm in North Lurgan Community Centre.