Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Willie Frazer allowed to attend Somme commemoration

Willie Frazer will be allowed to attend a Somme commemoration event
Willie Frazer will be allowed to attend a Somme commemoration event

Loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer can attend a parade marking the Battle of the Somme, a judge ruled today.

The 53-year-old was also given permission to be at a Twelfth of July Orange Order demonstration and the annual Scarva sham fight a day later.

But he was banned from saying anything publicly about any of the gatherings or the union flag dispute.

District Judge Austin Kennedy told him: "You can attend quietly all three events without making any comment to anyone about the events."

Frazer, from Markethill, Co Armagh, is charged with encouraging offences by an address to flag demonstrators in January.

He is also accused of three counts of taking part in an un-notified public procession, obstructing traffic in a public place, and possession of a prohibited weapon, namely a Taser stun-gun.

In March he was granted bail on a series of tight conditions.

They included an order not to be within two miles of public protests, demonstrations or processions.

He appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court today seeking to have that prohibition temporary lifted for three forthcoming events.

Frazer wanted permission to go to a Somme commemoration event in Co Armagh on Monday, a Twelfth parade in Newtownhamilton, and the Scarva sham fight on July 13.

Police opposed the application, claiming the situation within the loyalist community remains volatile.

A constable told the court Frazer's attendance at the events could inflame others to commit offences.

But defence counsel Richard Smyth argued that his rights to freedom of assembly and religious expression were involved.

Referring to the Somme commemoration event the barrister said: "That is something very close to Mr Frazer, his grandmother's seven brothers all fought in World War One."

Mr Smyth said all three events were important for the cultural identity of his client and thousands of others.

He added: "I sometimes get the impression that police and the prosecution are attempting to lay the blame for whatever tensions there are in loyalism solely at the door of Mr Frazer."

Judge Kennedy agreed to the temporary relaxation of his bail terms based on his clear record and behaviour since being released from custody.

He stressed that Frazer was still banned from making any public speeches or giving interviews connected to the flag dispute.

 

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