US Congress urged to probe California loyalist case
Firearms charges against Nelson suspect dropped
BY CAÍTLIN DOHERTY
The Rosemary Nelson Campaign for Truth and Justice has called on the United States Congress to conduct a thorough inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his arrest and the consequent dropping of weapons and explosives charges against loyalist Jim Fulton.
Fulton, the brother of imprisoned Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Mark Fulton, was arrested in California last December. Firearms and explosives charges against him were subsequently and unexpectedly dropped, although he remains in prison on drugs charges.
The controversy surrounding the Fulton case has again led to calls for the investigation into Rosemary Nelson's assassination to be taken out of the hands of the RUC.
``The whole case has raised alarming questions'', says Sinn Féin Assembly member Dara O'Hagan. ``The secrecy and lack of accountability surrounding it fuels the need for an independent international investigation and international judicial inquiry.''
Jim Fulton, the man described in a British newspaper as the prime suspect in Nelson's killing, has more than ten convictions on his record.
During a raid of his home near Los Angeles, California, last December, police found guns, pipe bombs, explosives and a small quantity of drugs. It is understood police uncovered a number of .22 calibre rifles, a spent M-72 anti-tank rocket launcher, a six-inch cannon mounted on a wooden base, two pipe bombs and hollowed-out hand grenades with some gun-powder residue, as well as quantities of hashish and metaamphetamine. At the time of the arrest, Fulton's US entry permit had expired.
However, during the initial part of the trial last week, the firearms charges were dropped, despite the objections of the local district attorney's office. Although he faces only drug charges, Fulton's bail was fixed at $100 000. Bail in such cases is normally in the order of $5,000. Even if Fulton makes bail, he will not be released, as he faces deportation for being in violation of US immigration laws.
Lawyer Richard Harvey, US spokesperson for the Rosemary Nelson campaign, is now hoping that a full Congressional inquiry can answer the following questions:
How a convicted member of a loyalist death squad gets entry into the US and how is he permitted to remain after his permit expires?
How can such serious weapons charges be dismissed over the objections of the local District Attorney?
``If Jim Fulton were a suspected member of the IRA, every Justice Department agency would be involved,'' said Harvey. ``Instead, the FBI, which is supposed to be assisting the search for Rosemary Nelson's killers, seem to be sitting on their hands. The question has to be asked: are they doing so at the request of those same members of the RUC who threatened Rosemary with death?''
The information leaked to the British press about Fulton's involvement in Rosemary Nelson's killing, if genuine, will no doubt jeopardise the inquiry supervised by Colin Port, assistant chief constable of Norfolk.
But other information also suggests Fulton may be a convenient scapegoat. As pressure grows on the British government to respect the wishes of the Nelson family, the Fulton case may well become a smokescreen, used by the RUC to shield itself from having to face claims of collusion. If Fulton is such a prime suspect, why did Colin Port declare last week he had no plans to interview him?
``What is happening here and what are the British, Irish and American governments doing about this?'' asks Dara O'Hagan.