A loyalist blogger accused of plotting to subvert a Stormont scrutiny body is to call a Democratic Unionist Party MLA as part of his defence, a court heard today.
Jamie Bryson told a judge he will be relying on Jim Wells as a witness in his fight against a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
Mr Wells had the party whip removed in May 2018 after claiming the party had broken a promise to reinstate him as Health Minister.
Attempts may also be made to secure the testimony of Lord Morrow, another senior DUP figure.
Criminal proceedings have been brought against Mr Bryson and former Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay.
A third man, Sinn Fein party member Thomas O'Hara, is also facing a similar charge.
The case relates to a Stormont probe into the billion pound sale of the National Asset Managment Agency (Nama)'s Northern Ireland property portfolio to US investment giant Cerberus.
In September 2015 Mr Bryson gave explosive evidence to the Finance Committee examining the deal.
Using parliamentary privilege, he made an unsubstantiated allegation that Peter Robinson, the then DUP First Minister, was set to profit.
Mr Robinson strenuously denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he neither expected nor received any money from the sale.
He branded 30-year-old Mr Bryson's evidence a "pantomime".
At the time Mr McKay was chair of the Finance Committee and seen as a rising star within Sinn Fein's ranks.
But a year later he stood down as an MLA for North Antrim and quit the party.
His resignation followed allegations that he and Mr O'Hara were involved in coaching Mr Bryson ahead of his appearance at the committee.
Police launched an investigation into the affair following a complaint by Lord Morrow.
A decision was then taken to prosecute Mr Bryson, of Rosepark in Donaghadee, Co Down; 37-year-old Mr McKay, of Loughan Road in Dunnamanagh, Co Tyrone; and 35-year-old Mr O'Hara, from Lisnahunshin Road in Cullybackey, Co Antrim.
It centres on an alleged conspiracy to subvert the Finance Committee's proceedings by giving evidence that should not have been permitted in open session.
Mr Bryson was the only one of the three men to appear at Belfast Magistrates' Court as the case was mentioned for the first time.
Representing himself, he confirmed that he will be seeking a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) to challenge the strength of the evidence against him.
District Judge Fiona Bagnall was informed that nine prosecution witnesses will be required for the hearing to establish if he has a case to answer.
Mr Bryson then disclosed: "There is one defence witness - Mr Jim Wells."
The DUP representative for South Down sat on the Finance Committee during its scrutiny of the Nama deal.
A query was also raised about potential testimony from Lord Morrow as the complainant.
"He's not in the papers, do I need to make that application for a witness summons?" Mr Bryson asked.
Backed by around 10 supporters in the public gallery, at one point he requested permission to use the courtroom benches reserved for lawyers.
But Judge Bagnall told him: "Just stay where you are."
Adjourning the case for two weeks, she said a date for the PI will be fixed at that stage