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Afghanistan-bound soldier to stand trial for rape

A British soldier due to be sent to Afghanistan later this year must stand trial accused of raping a woman in Belfast, a judge has ruled.

Francis Eliason faces charges connected to an alleged attack at a nightclub in the city last September.

The 29-year-old, whose address was given as Palace Barracks, in Holywood, faces two counts of rape and one of sexual assault.

During a preliminary inquiry hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court he declined to say anything in response to the charges or call witnesses at this stage.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall granted a prosecution application to have him returned for Crown Court trial on a date to be fixed.

Eliason, who is understood to be a member of the Mercian Regiment, was released on continuing bail of £500.

Judge Bagnall was also informed that Eliason's lawyer was coming off record at this stage as part of the continuing dispute over legal aid fees.

She told Eliason that he should take steps to obtain new representation and provide an address at which he can be contacted.

He is due to be deployed in October.

Belfast Telegraph

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