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Major security operation at court prior to short hearing into case of dissident Duffy

By Deborah McAleese

Published 01/12/2015

Officers search Laganside Court and surrounding areas early yesterday morning before the short hearing into a case involving Colin Duffy
Officers search Laganside Court and surrounding areas early yesterday morning before the short hearing into a case involving Colin Duffy
Colin Duffy

Anti-terror police launched a major security operation at Laganside Courthouse ahead of a brief hearing into a case against dissident republican Colin Duffy.

Duffy, who is on remand in the republican wing of Maghaberry Prison on terrorism charges, including directing the New IRA terror group, was not produced for an update on the case against him and his two co-accused.

Overnight on Sunday teams of specialist officers scoured the grounds and secured the area.

But there was no visible police presence at the courthouse during the 10-minute legal hearing between a judge, a prosecution barrister and defence lawyers for the three terrorist suspects.

Duffy is accused of attempting to kill police officers, possession of firearms, membership of the IRA, conspiracy to murder and preparing terrorist acts.

The 49-year-old from Lurgan is also alleged to have directed the activities of the New IRA between December 31, 2012 and December 16, 2013.

Yesterday's court hearing was told that it could be late March before forensic results would be ready for a preliminary investigation into the case.

However, the judge voiced concern over such a delay.

The court also heard that witnesses are expected to give evidence via video-link from Spain.

A request is expected to be made by the PPS ahead of any preliminary hearing for PSNI officers and MI5 personnel to be permitted to give evidence anonymously.

Duffy and his two co-accused, Harry Fitzsimons (47) of Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast and 54-year-old Alex McCrory, who is currently in Maghaberry Prison, face a series of terror charges, including involvement in a gun attack on police on the Crumlin Road in December 2013. This is the latest in a string of cases to be brought against Duffy.

In 2012 he was acquitted of the double murder of soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey outside Masserene Army barracks in Antrim.

He has always denied any involvement in the gun attack that killed the two sappers as they collected pizzas just hours before they left for a tour in Afghanistan.

In 1996 the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and life sentence for murdering a former UDR man, 57-year-old John Lyness, who was shot dead outside his home in Lurgan.

A year later charges faced by Duffy of murdering two police officers - John Graham and David Johnston - were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

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