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MLA defends call for leniency amid claims of double standards

East Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas last night stood over his appeal for leniency for loyalist gunman Samuel Tweed, despite the seriousness of his crimes.

"Mr Tweed was arrested for a very serious offence - but it wasn't to do with murder, bombing or anything - it was possession of weapons and escaping from lawful custody."

Mr Douglas, who arranged a meeting between the First Minister and Tweed's daughter Arlene, said people in his constituency were upset by the rearrest.

"People have come into my office over the past couple of months quite angry saying 'Here's a man who has caused nobody any bother for 40 years and he's going to end up in court.'

The MLA said the police may have felt more urgency about recapturing Mr Tweed earlier if he's still been a threat.

"If he'd been involved in paramilitary or criminal activity, I think that would have been the case. But it was so long ago, I wonder did they still have all the evidence?" But SDLP Justice spokesman Alban Maginness said it was "extraordinary" that senior DUP representatives had intervened in Tweed's court case. He said: "This is an extraordinary example of double standards by the First Minister and his colleagues. The DUP have taken a very strong line in other cases, demanding increased sentences - yet here they are calling for leniency.

"It seems very strange that they should intervene in this highly public way, through letters to a court, pleading on behalf of a man who has been evading justice for 40 years.

"It is a simply extraordinary position for DUP representatives to take."

Belfast Telegraph