Leading republican Colin Duffy charged with conspiring to murder security force members
Prominent republican Colin Duffy has been charged with conspiring to murder members of the security forces in Northern Ireland.
Two other men were separately accused of trying to murder police travelling to the scene of a loyalist protest in Belfast earlier this month. Shots were fired at the officers' vehicles.
The trio appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court surrounded by prison officers and armed riot police but did not speak during the brief hearing.
They waved to a crowd in the gallery who noisily indicated support as they were led away to prison to await their trial.
Duffy, 47, from Lurgan in Co Armagh, was also accused of membership of the IRA and conspiring with the other defendants, Alex McCrory and Henry Fitzsimmons, to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property since the start of this year.
There were no legal submissions. A detective connected them to the charges.
A convoy of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) vehicles pulling digital signs was fired upon from republican Ardoyne as it travelled up the Crumlin Road on December 5 to the scene of an Orange Order protest linked to a July 12 parade.
Duffy, from Forest Glade in Lurgan, faces four charges including conspiring to possess explosives and firearms and belonging to a proscribed organisation, the IRA, between January 1 and December 16 this year, a Courts Service statement said.
Only the membership of the IRA charge was read out in open court.
A Court Service statement said Duffy was charged: "On dates unknown between the 1st day of January 2013 and the 16th day of December 2013, in the County Division of Belfast or elsewhere within the jurisdiction of the Crown Court, conspired with Alexander McCrory and Henry Fitzsimmons and with persons unknown to murder members of the security forces."
McCrory, 52, from Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast, was accused of conspiring to murder members of the security forces, conspiracy to possess explosives and firearms and belonging to the IRA.
He was also charged with attempting to murder the officers in their vehicles on the Crumlin Road and possessing firearms with intent to endanger life.
Fitzsimmons, 46, of no fixed address, was charged with possession of firearms with intent, attempting to murder the officers on the Crumlin Road, belonging to the IRA and conspiracy with the other two accused to possess firearms and explosives.
Only the possession of firearms charges were read out in court.
A large crowd filled the body of the courtroom as police officers stood near the doorway. Duffy was wearing a grey open-necked top and had a beard. Five prison officers stood in the dock.
A shortened version of the charge sheet was read out and then solicitors for the accused told magistrate Fiona Bagnall they had no submissions to make.
The accused were remanded in custody to Maghaberry high-security prison to reappear before the court via video-link on January 14.
Two people were arrested after supporters clashed with police outside the courthouse.
Belfast Telegraph Digital