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Suspected dissidents want video hearings despite Covid jail rules

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In custody: Amanda McCabe is charged with a string of terror offences

In custody: Amanda McCabe is charged with a string of terror offences

In custody: Amanda McCabe is charged with a string of terror offences

A group of suspected dissident republicans has demanded to be presented on videolink during court remand hearings despite coronavirus restrictions in jails.

Standard procedures for prisoners appearing by videolink have been curtailed during the pandemic in a bid to reduce the amount of movement around the facilities.

Inmates are usually transported to a specific wing which houses the videolink suites, but as this increases contact with others, a decision was taken to stand this down for straightforward adjournments.

Prisoners can still be produced if specifically requested by the court or their legal teams.

During a first remand hearing for the alleged dissidents at Dungannon Magistrates' Court last month, none appeared on the link, leading defence lawyers to request their production "on each and every occasion".

The request was repeated yesterday when none of the accused appeared.

The defendants are husband and wife David and Sharon Jordan, Damien Joseph McLaughlin from Dungannon, Kevin Murphy from Coalisland, Amanda McCabe and Shea Reynolds from Lurgan, and Joseph Barr, Patrick McDaid and Gary Hayden from Londonderry.

They face a series of charges including New IRA membership, directing terrorism and preparing terrorist acts.

Dr Issam Bassalat (62) from Edinburgh is charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism or assisting another to commit such acts.

The alleged offences are said to have been committed in Omagh on various dates between February and July.

Yesterday the prosecution said "police are on course to submit the file by Christmas and there hasn't been any slippage".

A defence lawyer replied: "These are serious matters and the defendants are entitled to know the progress on their cases. I appreciate the logistical difficulties, but we are trying to balance this in the best way."

District Judge Michael Ranaghan then pointed out: "The more (defendants) we have produced, the more difficult it is for the prison to comply with these directions.

"I have to monitor this. If it's going to be a case of asking for each and every one of these defendants, I may well draw a line under that and have no more produced.

"That is a matter for discussion between the court and the prison."

He ordered both female defendants to appear by link on the next occasion from Hydebank, but of the men held in Maghaberry permitted just Hayden.

"We are all working in difficult times and I'm not going to allow any more," the judge said.

The defence advised enquiries would be made with the prison to ascertain if production of all defendants could be accommodated and, if not, to provide reasons.

Judge Ranaghan said: "I'm taking ownership of this. All correspondence to the prison is to be copied to me."

The case was adjourned until next month.

Belfast Telegraph