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Ex-INLA man accused of Co Tyrone murder loses latest court challenge to extradition

By Staff Reporter

A former INLA member who is wanted for a murder in Co Tyrone almost 20 years ago has lost his latest legal challenge to being extradited from the Republic.

The authorities are seeking the surrender of Francis Lanigan (53), originally from Belfast but with an address in west Dublin, for murder and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The offences relate to the murder of John Knocker, who was shot dead in a hotel car park in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, on May 31, 1998.

In January 2013, Lanigan was arrested on foot of a European Arrest Warrant at a Dublin gym where he was working as a self-employed barber.

He gave a false name and later said he had been working under the name "Ciaran McCrory" for his own protection for the previous 15 years.

Gardai were aware Lanigan was living under that name before his arrest because a detective had covertly gone to the gym where he worked, had done a DNA test on a coffee cup and ascertained that the man living as Ciaran McCrory was really Lanigan.

If extradited north, Lanigan believes his life would be at risk from loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

The High Court in Dublin ordered Lanigan's surrender to Northern Ireland in August 2015 but a "number of strands" of legal proceedings remained ongoing.

In January 2017, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said there had been four sets of High Court proceedings related to the proposed surrender of Mr Lanigan to Northern Ireland.

Dismissing Lanigan's latest legal challenge, Mr Justice George Birmingham, in the Court of Appeal, said he would uphold the approach taken by both High Court judges and dismiss two appeals. He said a reference to the European Court of Justice was not appropriate or necessary.

The judge went on to say that "the delays that have bedevilled this application are completely unacceptable", having regard to Ireland's international obligations.

He said he "did not at all accept" that the delays in the case were "attributable to the State's litigation strategy" but rather, they have to be "laid firmly at the door of Mr Lanigan and the strategy that he has pursued".

In an affidavit, Lanigan stated that he joined the Provisional IRA aged 17 and, at or about the age of 19, he joined the "younger National Liberation Army (INLA)".

He stated that by 1991 he was a "significant member" of the INLA. The RUC informed him that his personal details were "in the hands of loyalists" and that he was advised to change his routines.

In 1993, Lanigan stated that a group belonging to the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) tried to murder him, but they shot the wrong man.

He stated that in May 1998, "I was attacked outside the Glengannon Hotel and, arising from that, John Knocker lost his life".

Lanigan claimed that the particulars of the incident included in the European Arrest Warrant were "not a forthright account" and asked the court to take regard of "the admitted and proven collusion of the Northern Ireland state officials with loyalist paramilitaries".

He also asked why his extradition had not been sought in 1998 or shortly afterwards.

Belfast Telegraph

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