Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Man 'stopped with petrol can and bottles' claims paramilitaries forced him to carry them - court hears

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A man allegedly stopped with a petrol container and box full of 35 bottles amid heightening tensions in Belfast claimed paramilitaries forced him to carry them, the High Court heard today.

Connor Whelan was arrested as crowds gathered in the Broadway area ahead of an outbreak of disorder on July 11.

Prosecutors claimed he was wearing latex gloves and equipped to make petrol bombs.

A judge was told that as he was being taken into a police car he shouted: "Up the 'Ra."

Whelan (29) of Pembroke Manor,  Dunmurry, faces charges of riot and possessing articles for use in petrol bombs.

He was refused bail due to the risk of any further offences in the current climate.

Whelan was detained after officers saw three men running away from a black box and canister near Fallswater Street late on the Eleventh night.

Thirty-five bottles and a two-thirds full five-litre petrol container were recovered.

Up to 40 people were in the area ahead of what was to become the first outbreak of last month's violence, the court heard.

It was claimed that when Whelan was searched police found a balaclava, a dozen rags and a camouflage snood.

He claimed during interviews that unknown paramilitaries had asked him to carry the material.

But according to the prosecution a set of latex gloves also found on him did not support his assertion to have acted under duress.

Defence counsel Michael Ward argued that no petrol bombs were thrown and no police officers injured at that stage.

He compared the incident to subsequent "disgraceful" attacks by loyalists.

"By and large the nationalist community, of which this applicant is a member, have not engaged in this level of violence." Mr Ward said.

However, Mr Justice Stephens held there is an arguable case that Whelan is an alleged petrol bomber.

Refusing bail, the judge added: "There is also a prima facie case that he sets about that task in a planned and organised matter, planning and organising damage to the community and injuries to individuals."

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