The UDA told people who wanted action to be taken against a drug dealer to go to the police, it was claimed last night.
But then street vigilantes acting without paramilitary approval tarred and feathered the victim instead, according to the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) which provides analysis for the loyalist group.
The claim came after the Belfast Telegraph published graphic photographs showing the savage assault on the man, who is in his mid-30s; he has yet to come forward to police.
Two hooded men were said to have tied him to a lamp-post and then - in scenes reminiscent of the dark days of the Troubles - poured tar and feathers over him before putting a placard round his neck reading 'I'm a drug dealing scumbag'.
UPRG spokesman Frankie Gallagher insisted, however: "The UDA told the local community to go to the police about this.
"The community responded in the way it did because it had no confidence in the police."
He stressed the UDA had no involvement in the incident, which happened in the Taughmonagh estate on Sunday shortly after 10pm.
Nationalist and unionist politicians, however, slammed the grim attack as provocative given Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie's intention to withdraw funding from UDA-linked projects if the UDA fails to start decommissioning by the second week of October.
Ms Ritchie said: "This type of behaviour has no place in a civilised society.
"If the UDA is involved it is a stark demonstration of the thuggery and violence which I made clear has to end if the funding to the (Conflict Transformation Initiative) project is to continue."
Her party colleague, South Belfast SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell said: " This is a return to the revolting barbarism of the worst days of the Troubles and those responsible must be put out of business at once.
"All attempts at justification by slandering the victim must be treated with contempt."
Police who went to the scene of the incident at Finwood Park said there was no-one there when they arrived, and no-one has come forward since.
A spokesman appealed for anyone with information to contact detectives at Lisburn Road station on 0845 6008000 or by giving information to the Crimestoppers number.
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