THE trial of three men accused of membership of the breakaway `Real IRA' was aborted at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday after the Garda police said they had ``mislaid'' documents relating to the trial.
The non-jury court had been due to give a ruling on a defence application for a mistrial, but when the trial resumed yesterday the prosecution conceded the application.
The three Armagh men had been arrested in Monaghan during a Garda investigation into Real IRA activities. Under special judicial powers, the three can be jailed on charges of memebership of an illegal organisation on the testimony a senior Garda officer.
The men were remanded on continuing bail until March 25 when the case will be up for mention again.
A fourth man arrested with them, Gareth O'Connor, went missing last year while on bail and his disappearance remains a source of controversy and speculation. While the PSNI police and his family have accused the mainstream IRA of abducting and murdering Mr O'Connor, some republicans have accused Mr O'Connor of acting as a police informer.
On Wednesday, Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney said original briefing notes relating to orders he had signed extending the detention of the three accused and Mr O'Connor after their arrest had disappeared.
Defence lawyers had sought the notes but Mr Rooney said he had been unable to find them after searching his home, his car and Monaghan Garda Station.
Mr Rooney agreed that the documents had been ``mislaid or lost in the course of the trial''.
Defence lawyers said there should be a mistrial because in the absence of the original briefing notes they had been unable to test the credibility of Mr Rooney, the chief prosecution witness, as to his beliefs concerning the three accused.