Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Republican bailed over McCartney probe must not contact witnesses

Robert McCartney
Robert McCartney

A senior republican charged with offences connected to the murder of Robert McCartney must not contact any witnesses in the case, a court has ordered.

The prohibition was placed on Sean Hughes as part of conditions under which he was granted bail.

Hughes (51), of Aghadavoyle Road, Jonesborough, Co Armagh, is charged with IRA membership and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the illegal organisation.

The alleged offences, committed eight years ago, are linked to a suspected IRA internal investigation following Mr McCartney's killing.

The 33-year-old father-of-two, from Belfast's Short Strand, was stabbed to death outside a city centre bar in 2005.

Another man with him survived after being badly beaten and having his throat cut. The IRA was held responsible for the attack after a clean-up operation swung into action following the murder, with forensic evidence destroyed at the scene.

Mr McCartney's family have waged a long public campaign to have his killers brought to justice but so far no one has faced justice for the murder. The sisters were even invited to the White House to air their concerns.

Hughes is the second leading republican to be arrested in connection with the case.

Padraic Wilson (53), from Andersonstown, west Belfast, faces similar charges.

Neither man is accused of having anything to do with the murder.

A Sinn Fein delegation including Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy was present at the city's Magistrates Court as Hughes made his first appearance.

Prosecutors revealed that bail had been agreed in the case.

District Judge Mervyn Bates then agreed to release the accused on certain conditions.

Hughes is to stay at his bail address, report to police weekly and must not attempt to contact prosecution witnesses or complainants in the case. A £1,000 surety is also to be lodged as part of the arrangements.

Hughes is due to appear again alongside his co-accused on March 15. Outside the court Mr Murphy hit out at the decision to charge Hughes.

He said: "This isn't about justice for the family of Robert McCartney or attempting to prosecute those who killed him.

"This is simply political policing. It's a nonsense."

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