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Former Senator 'felt threatened by songs posted online by ex-partner'

By Alan Erwin

Published 18/10/2016

Music videos with references to guns were posted on social media as part of an alleged campaign of harassment against former Irish Labour Party Senator Mairia Cahill, a court has heard.

A judge was told Ms Cahill felt threatened by the song titles, some by gangster rap artists, said to have been put up by her former partner.

It was also revealed that 37-year-old Stephen Altimas was arrested at a public library in Belfast, while on either Facebook or Twitter.

Altimas, of Jamaica Court in the city, denies charges of harassing Ms Cahill and breaching a restraining order, by posting messages and material about her on social media websites. The alleged offences were committed on dates between February and March this year.

During an ongoing trial, Belfast Magistrates' Court heard police were sent postings Ms Cahill believed to be offensive.

A detective said he discovered Altimas on a computer in the corner of the library in Ardoyne.

"He was online at that time, making posts," the detective said.

Cross-examined by defence counsel Michael Tierney, the officer confirmed the online material under scrutiny was in a public forum, rather than sent directly to the alleged victim.

Other people alerted Ms Cahill, claiming Altimas was making reference to her, the court heard. She then sought out the posts by her ex-partner.

Mr Tierney continued: "The theory by the prosecution and injured party is that certain songs were being posted online and she was being threatened by (reference) to guns and so on."

The detective replied that Ms Cahill felt the song titles referred to their situation.

"She perceived them to be threatening," he added. But Mr Tierney insisted that only some out of multiple music videos posted were being examined.

The artists his client put up in March, ranged from Tupac Shakur and Madonna, to Fleetwood Mac and Tears for Fears.

Altimas is currently banned from any online activity while he contests the charges against him.

The court heard, however, that his Facebook account was reactivated without his knowledge.

Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes questioned how the "spontaneous re-ignition" could take place. "I am, to say the least, very suspicious about that," he commented. He ordered Altimas to return to his solicitor's offices and deactivate the account once more.

With the prosecution case now completed, the hearing was adjourned to a later date for defence evidence.

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