A former IRA man jailed for the attempted murder of an off-duty UDR soldier 30 years ago has won the first round of his legal battle to be freed under a special pardon granted by the Queen.
A judge at the High Court in Belfast yesterday granted leave for Gerry McGeough to seek a judicial review in a bid to obtain a Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
The 52-year-old from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, is serving a 20-year sentence imposed earlier this year for shooting Samuel Brush, a postman ambushed as he made a delivery near Aughnacloy in June 1981.
McGeough was convicted of attempted murder, possession of a firearm and ammunition and IRA membership.
His lawyer had argued that he should be granted the special mercy warrant to ensure equal treatment with other convicted terrorists who had benefited from it.
It was claimed it would be unlawful to draw a distinction because McGeough was previously jailed in Germany and the United States.
Under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, McGeough is expected to be released in two years following his conviction for the attack on Mr Brush. But his lawyer argued that the time he spent in jail abroad should count towards that period.
He said McGeough was in an indistinguishable position from others who had received the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
Mr Justice Treacy granted leave to McGeough to seek a judicial review on the issue of inequality of treatment, but he rejected two other grounds, including political discrimination.
Lawyers for both sides are hoping to draw up a timetable to begin with proceedings by September.
Mr McGeough was arrested by the PSNI as he left an election count centre in Omagh in March 2008.
A critic of Sinn Fein, he was questioned in the days after his arrest about the IRA ambush on Mr Brush, who is now a DUP councillor in Dungannon.
During the shootout Mr Brush wounded McGeough, who then later escaped across the border into Co Monaghan for medical treatment.