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Albanian trio's car contained hidden gun, Northern Ireland court told

By Michael Donnelly

Three Albanians accused of possessing a firearm found in a vehicle last Friday have been remanded into custody for a fortnight by a court in Enniskillen.

The trio had been stopped and searched by police on Dublin Road outside the Co Fermanagh town shortly after lunchtime.

Enniskillen District Court heard that two of the men had only arrived in Dublin last month, and were supposed to remain in the Republic while their claim for refugee status was assessed.

A detective constable told the court that a "suspected gas-powered handgun" uncovered in the search of their Ssanyong Kyron vehicle was hidden underneath a false floor behind the passenger seat in the back of the 4x4.

The detective said the men, aged 21, 22 and 34, were questioned by the PSNI "as best we could" with the help of a telephone interpreter.

There was no interpreter available yesterday when the trio appeared in court.

That situation was described by District Judge Nigel Broderick as "unsatisfactory, to say the least".

As it was, one of the men, Lorenc Dashi (34), from Dublin Road in Cavan, acted as a translator for his co-accused, who have no English.

They are Mariglen Hoxha (21) and Arlind Rrapaj (22), both of no fixed abode, Dublin.

All three are charged with having a firearm in suspicious circumstances and possession of an offensive weapon.

Dashi is also accused of obstructing a police officer, driving without a licence and without insurance.

Barrister Michael Ward, acting on behalf of Hoxha and Rrapaj, revealed that they travelled from Albania via Kosovo and had arrived in Dublin three weeks ago, where they had claimed refugee status.

Mr Ward said while his clients had been passengers in the vehicle, they denied any knowledge of the firearm uncovered by police.

He also told the court the men hadn't realised that they had crossed the border and were "surprised" that they were in Northern Ireland.

When it was indicated by Mr Ward and solicitor David Buchanan, for Dashi, that the men would not be applying for bail, the District Judge remanded them into custody to appear again via prison video-link in two weeks.

The judge said there were "live issues" in the case relating to addresses, immigration status and the charges the men faced.

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