Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Terror suspects part of New IRA group, court told

There was a heavy police presence outside Londonderry courthouse yesterday for the appearance of three men on terrorism charges.

In the dock were Jason Ceulmans (42), from Lecky Road, Neil Christopher Hegarty (47), from Sackville Street, and Damien Harkin, also 47, from Westland Avenue, all in Derry.

The three men refused to recognise the court as a clerk put the charges to them; instead they waved to their supporters and gave the thumbs-up sign.

All three have been charged with possession of an explosive formed projectile with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to murder and possessing a walkie-talkie communication device for use in an act of terrorism.

A detective constable told the court that police believe the three accused are also members of the New IRA — an amalgamation of the Republican Action Against Drugs group and the Real IRA.

The police officer outlined the circumstances which led to the charges.

She told the court that officers stopped a car on Westway in the Creggan area of Derry last Thursday evening that the three men were travelling in.

Two of the defendants were found to be wearing latex gloves and all three were in black clothing with snoods. In the car police discovered a device containing 200 grammes of Semtex in a metal casing and a blue walkie-talkie.

Objecting to bail, the detective constable said that she believed all three were “likely to commit further offences” and that all three were “members of the New IRA, an amalgamation of RAAD and RIRA”.

She also pointed out that this new group had the capacity to commit murder and cited the recent killing of prison officer David Black as an example.

Finally, she said that in the case of one of the defendants, Damien Harkin, the risk of absconding was significant as he had absconded in 1988 when faced with terrorist charges.

Defence solicitor Ciaran Shiels, acting on behalf of Harkin, asked the police officer if their information about his client being a member of the New IRA was as a result of “intelligence”.

She initially refused to confirm this.

However, she then admitted that this was, in fact, the case.

Mr Shiels then argued that the bail hearing must be adjourned because he had not been shown this evidence, as he was legally entitled to.

District Judge Alan White adjourned the hearing until Thursday, December 13 when all three will appear again via video-link.

As the three men were being led away their supporters shouted and applauded before congregating again outside the court to cheer the accused as they were driven away by police.

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