Shoukri gets six years
BY AINE Ní BHRIAIN
When he was arrested for possessing a gun during the recent loyalist feud, Andre Shoukri claimed the weapon was for his personal protection.
In September of 2002, the well-groomed UDA 'Brigadier' was found driving about the unionist Rathcoole estate with a Walther pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers and 30 rounds of ammunition stuffed inside one of his socks. He was charged with intent to endanger life and remanded to Maghaberry prison to await trial. A month later, his application for bail was denied.
Now a court has acquitted Shoukri of the more serious charge and found him guilty only of possession of an illegal weapon. As a result, he has been sentenced to six years in prison. With good behavioor, he'll be out in three.
Back in June of 1996, Shoukri - who was only 19 at the time - was charged with manslaughter after he was involved in a fight outside a north Belfast pub. He had assaulted Catholic tennis player Gareth Parker only hours after the controversial Tour of the North Orange march was forced through nationalist areas of North Belfast by the RUC. Parker later died as a result of his injuries.
Although he admitted punching Parker, Shoukri was acquitted of the manslaughter charge. Instead he was found guilty of unlawful and malicious wounding and served eight months in jail before being released. Now, publically 'blooded', Shoukri was welcomed back into the shadowy fold of the UDA and before you could say 'God save the queen' he was back in court. This time it was for extortion.
Shoukri and three others, including his older brother Ihab, had demanded £3,000 pounds 'protection' money from a Catholic businessman's pizza shop on the Cavehill Road. The funds were intended for the Ballysillan UDA. All four were convicted of the charges, with Shoukri receiving a three-year sentence.
The presiding judge remarked, "you would have thought you would have taken pains not to get involved in anything again, but on this occasion it was deliberate and persistent and therefore fully criminal".
Cut to September 2002. The loyalist feud is in full swing. Again. And Andre Shoukri is stopped in the Rathcoole estate with a gun. Caught red-handed, as they say, no pun intended.
During his bail hearing, a PSNI officer had told the court that he believed Shoukri had been involved in sectarian murders, attempted murders, intimidation, drugs, racketeering, moving counterfeit goods and orchestrating public disorder. Shoukri's application for bail was denied, but just eleven weeks later a second application was successful.
So, on 14 January 2003, Andre Shoukri was freed on £6,000 bail by Justice Nicholson, who said he was not satisfied the prosecution had proved Shoukri would be a danger to others if released. Even several conditions imposed by the court - including a nighttime curfew and a fixed address - were rescinded by the High Court on appeal.
Since then, Shoukri has been spotted outside another Belfast city-centre nightclub engaged in a full-out street brawl. This time though, it is reported that he and his cronies suffered the worst of it, leaving the scene bloodied and bruised.
Now, with at least three years of the six-year sentence looming, Shoukri will be imprisoned alongside his former colleague - ousted UDA 'C' Company leader Johnny Adair.
At one time, Adair and Shoukri were fast friends. It was Adair, after all, who claims to have appointed Shoukri to the position of North Belfast Brigadier. However, the two fell out during the feud, with the ambitious Shoukri aligning himself with the mainstream UDA leadership as Adair turned on his old friend furiously, calling him (among other things) "that Paki bastard" and vowing to have him killed. During his recent trial, Shoukri claimed that he had been told of Adair's plans and was carrying the weapon he was arrested with in order to thwart any attempts on his life.
The presiding judge told the court that although possessing the weapon was "tainted with a suspicion of criminal activity", he was not satisfied that the prosecution has proved "that the set-up for an imminent attack on some person existed". And so, this past Tuesday, 1 July, Andre Shoukri was found guilty of possessing a weapon.