Belfast Telegraph

'Model prisoner' Michael McKevitt in fresh bid for freedom

By Aodhan O Faolain

Real IRA terrorist Michael McKevitt has been taking drama, creative writing and yoga classes in prison, a court has heard.

The 65-year-old has been granted leave to bring fresh legal proceedings aimed at securing his early release from jail.

Belfast's High Court ruled in 2009 that McKevitt and three other men were responsible for the 1998 Omagh bomb in which 29 people were killed.

He was ordered to pay a share of £1.6m damages after being found liable for the Real IRA atrocity in a civil case brought by victims' relatives.

Yesterday, McKevitt, from Blackrock, Co Louth withdrew a legal challenge against the Irish minister for justice's refusal to release him under an early release scheme.

However, he will now use another legal mechanism, judicial review, to contest his continued detention.

McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation the Real IRA.

His sentence was backdated to 2001.

He claimed that under 2007 prison rules he should already be a free man.

His application is brought on grounds including those that he has been a model prisoner and has engaged in a number of activities in the prison.

The activities include courses in computing, web design, speech and drama, art, French and yoga. He has also completed a course offered by the Open University in creative writing.

Despite withdrawing his application to be released under Article 40 of the Constitution, McKevitt was given permission from Mr Justice Kevin Cross to have the High Court in Dublin conduct a judicial review of the Irish justice minister's decision instead. He is due to be released in March 2016.

His application, which state lawyers intend to oppose, was adjourned till early October.

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