Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

I was interned, says republican Stephen Murney following acquittal on terrorist charges after 14 months in jail

Eirigi Press officer Stephen Murney was acquitted of a series of terrorism charges
Eirigi Press officer Stephen Murney was acquitted of a series of terrorism charges

A republican activist who posted pictures of serving police officers on Facebook has been acquitted of terror charges after a judge said there was no evidence of sinister reasons for doing so.

Eirigi Press officer Stephen Murney accused police and prosecutors of internment by remand, saying he spent "14 months in custody for nothing" after he was cleared yesterday.

Mr Murney (30), from Derrybeg Terrace in Newry, stood trial earlier this year on seven counts of publishing, collecting and possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists between August 2011 and July 2012.

He was accused of publishing on his Facebook page photographs of police officers on duty.

Speaking outside court having been acquitted on all charges, Mr Murney thanked his legal team and described his period in custody as "internment on remand" and vowed to continue his work as a Press officer with eirigi.

During the Diplock, non-jury trial held at Belfast Crown Court, the prosecution said the photos were found on a computer along with two videos on an iPhone, during a police search of his Newry home in November 2012.

Mr Murney took photos of police officers in June 2012 as the Olympic torch passed through the city.

He took images of officers who were policing a protest in support of republican prisoners and against searches in Maghaberry Prison which were taking place at the time. Mr Murney was part of this protest and was the Press officer for eirigi, which organised the protest. He later published the images on his Facebook page.

Mr Murney also published photographs in August 2011 and July 2012 of himself being stopped and searched by police, as well as collecting and making a record of the policing of a Twelfth parade in Newry which showed the faces of officers.

The court heard that when Mr Murney's home was searched in November 2012 photos of police officers on duty in Newry and Belfast were found, along with a minute-long video of a police operation on the A1 where a bus believed to be carrying explosives was stopped and searched.

When asked during the trial why he recorded the bus incident, Mr Murney said the bus had children on board and he was asked by parents of the children if eirigi could be of help, adding it was his intention to capture on camera what was happening.

Giving evidence, Mr Murney denied the photographs and videos were for terrorist purposes, stating he had them to report what was going on in his role as Press officer.

When asked about the images of him being stopped and searched, Mr Murney made the case that he was recording the incidents to show the Committee on the Administration of Justice, as he believed he was being harassed by the PSNI.

Judge Corinne Philpott said: "There is no evidence before this court that eirigi supports violence, or has argued for violent action to be taken against the police, or that the organisation is directly linked to those that support terrorist activity."

She said the prosecution had failed to prove its claims beyond reasonable doubt and ruled the accused was entitled to an acquittal.

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Murney afterwards said: "Even though it was clear from the very outset that these charges were completely without substance, both the PSNI and prosecution service have persisted with a legalised charade which resulted in my imprisonment from December 2012. There is no other way of describing that charade except as 'internment by remand'."

BACKGROUND

Stephen Murney (30) faced seven counts of publishing, collecting and possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists between August 2011 and July 2012. The prosecution claimed the photos were found on a computer and two videos were found on an iPhone after a police search of Murney's Derrybeg Terrace home in November 2012. He was remanded in custody for 14 months.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz