Belfast Telegraph

MI5 witnesses uncooperative, terror trial hears

Colin Duffy
Colin Duffy
Alex McCrory
Henry Fitzsimons

By Michael Donnelly

A lawyer for three men accused of terror offences after an MI5 surveillance operation has complained about witnesses citing "national security" when questioned by the defence, but later giving answers to similar questions from the prosecution.

The senior QC said he viewed "with some disquiet" witnesses refusing to answer questions about equipment employed and notes recorded in covert operations.

The intervention came after the re-examination of a former PSNI officer by the prosecution concerning a "video camera" he had deployed in the Forest Glade area of Lurgan.

Earlier Mr Justice O'Hara - who told the defence counsel he noted his point - had heard the retired detective repeatedly maintain "I can't answer that question on the grounds of national security" when cross-examined by lawyers for Colin Duffy (51), Henry Fitzsimons (50) and Alex McCrory (57).

The trio, whose addresses can't be reported, deny preparing and directing terrorism, and membership or professing to be members of the IRA.

Fitzsimons and McCrory also deny trying to murder police in a convoy, and possessing two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition used in the north Belfast shooting on December 5, 2013.

The retired detective - using the cypher Oscar 340 - initially told a senior prosecution lawyer he had set up a video camera before December 6, 2013 in an operation codenamed Idealistic and had later removed the camera.

However, when asked by defence lawyers about the surveillance equipment, he said: "I can't answer that question on the grounds of national security."

However, he did admit the device or devices were camouflaged. On one occasion he said he could not answer questions as "there would be aspects (of the equipment) that I don't know", but added he could not answer as "there would be aspects of national security".

After again citing national security when asked what happened to "the devices" after he collected them, counsel put it to the detective that "on your evidence that's the end of the chain".

"I don't know what your chain consists of," came the reply.

However, after a short adjournment, he told senior prosecution counsel he had never put any device "in an evidence bag".

In the Crown re-examination, he initially reported that the serial numbers on notebooks were not sequential and that the notes made in them were completed contemporaneously, or before the termination of his duties, "on some occasions, yes, and on other occasions no".

He also said he was aware the devices had a serial number, but he believed they were the manufacturer's own number, although he did not believe they were in sequence.

However, when asked by the prosecution if he had signed any record for the device, he replied, after pausing: "There is a record made that the camera has been deployed."

But when asked if it was contained within "the surveillance log", Oscar 340 said he had not seen "the surveillance log".

Later the non-jury court listened again, as it will today, to various audio recordings said to have been made of the three men.

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