Protesters clash with police as terror suspect appears in court
Around 40 protesters, shouting ‘SS RUC’ blocked the entrance gates of Londonderry Magistrate’s Court yesterday where a leading member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement appeared on terrorism related charges.
Police eventually moved the protesters aside and Gary Donnelly (39) of 15 Sackville Court, Derry was brought into court where he was charged with having a mobile phone that was used for purposes connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.
He made no reply when the charges were put to him in court.
A detective constable said the police had strong evidence that the phone was used in relation to two pipe bomb attacks and a punishment beating carried out by the Real IRA on September 11 last.
The detective told the court that the charges were brought as a result of statements made by journalist Eamonn MacDermott who had received calls of responsibility between 10am and 11am on September 11, 2009, and that during this hour the journalist’s phone records showed he had received a call from a mobile phone belonging to Mr Donnelly.
The detective said he would oppose a bail application on the grounds that police believed Mr Donnelly could “engage again in further terrorist acts and that he could interfere with a witness”.
Defence solicitor Paddy McGurk challenged the detective's version and said police evidence came from a statement Mr MacDermott made several months after September 11, 2009.
He went on to say Mr MacDermott had received several calls including one from a call box and that he did not recognise the number, nor did he recognise the caller's voice.
Mr McGurk then referred to a story in yesterday's local Press where Mr MacDermott stated that he told police in an interview on Thursday that Mr Donnelly did not make the call.
District Judge Barney McElholm said that the Human Rights Act obliges him to consider evidence before making a decision about bail.
He asked the detective: “Did Mr MacDermott's statement say that it wasn't the defendant that made the call or did it go no further than saying it was from someone with a local accent?”
He noted that police had evidence that linked a mobile phone to Mr Donnelly, but the prosecution case had to prove that Mr Donnelly was the person making the call. He also wanted to know exactly what the journalist said on Thursday.
The case was adjourned while police notes from this interview were produced.
It was established that, when Mr MacDermott was asked if he would be able to identify Mr Donnelly’s voice, he said: “I don't know, if he rang me cold and didn't say who it was, I honestly don't know. I don't think he would be so daft as to ring me on his own phone given the time it would take to read a statement.”
Mr McElholm said it was clear that Mr MacDermott did not identify Mr Donnelly as the caller but it is not clear yet which call to Mr MacDermott's phone was the relevant call as he received several during the hour in question.
The judge said he felt that, as Mr Donnelly's record does not contain any relevant offences under terrorism legislation and that there was nothing to suggest that Mr Donnelly would interfere with any witnesses, the matter could be dealt with by way of bail.
Mr Donnelly was released to appear again on September 20.