Dissident suspects face trial over gun ambush on police
Three alleged senior dissident republican paramilitaries are to stand trial accused of trying to kill police officers, a judge has ruled.
Colin Duffy, Henry Fitzsimons and Alex McCrory are jointly charged with attempting to murder members of the PSNI who came under gun attack in north Belfast more than two years ago.
The trio also face counts of directing a terrorist organisation, membership of a proscribed grouping - namely the IRA - conspiracy to murder, possessing firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life and preparation of terrorist acts.
Lawyers for the men had been fighting attempts to have them prosecuted for the alleged offences, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
Following a lengthy preliminary investigation a judge at Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday decided the case should proceed.
Each of the accused was returned for Crown Court trial on a date to be fixed.
Duffy (48), from Lurgan, Co Armagh; 54-year-old McCrory, with an address in west Belfast, and Fitzsimons (47) of no fixed abode are all currently on bail.
The alleged offences are connected to a gun attack on a police convoy in the Crumlin Road area back in December 2013.
Two AK47 rifles and spent ammunition were later recovered along with a hijacked and burnt-out taxi.
The prosecution alleges that security services recorded the three men in conversation at a meeting a day after the gun attack.
During the hearing to establish if they have a case to answer it was claimed that Duffy had been targeted in an MI5 sting operation staged at a Spanish resort.
An agent told the court he posed as a holidaying Serbian businessman with links to the criminal underworld in a bid to secretly record any discussions about potential arms dealing. Another undercover operative portrayed his girlfriend during the assignment aimed at securing an encounter with Duffy in Majorca.
Testifying anonymously, the agent said he was recruited for the assignment in Santa Ponsa in August 2013. The operation, which involved wearing covert recording devices, was to be purely evidence gathering, the court heard.
Duffy's legal team have not accepted he ever met the undercover agent.
After examining evidence and hearing closing submissions, District Judge Fiona Bagnall ruled that all three accused should be returned for trial.