Irish Republican News · April 23, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Miscarriage of justice victim fights again

A West Belfast man handed two life sentences by a non-jury Diplock court is to testify in his own defence against extradition from the US as his original trial is being replayed in a Los Angeles courtroom.

Sean O Cealleagh (Sean Kelly) was released under the Good Friday Agreement after serving eight years of a controversial sentence for abetting the 1988 murder of two British soldiers.

He emigrated to the US where he was granted permanent residence in 2001.

However, O Cealleagh was taken into custody as he returned from Ireland where he had been attending the christening of his nephew.

He has been charged with “being inadmissible to the US because of his conviction” according to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a blanket ban on all Irish political prisoners entering the U.S.

O Cealleagh’s lawyers now plan to play video footage to an immigration court from Irish and British television documentaries, both of which present evidence that O Cealleagh and two others convicted on the same charges were the victims of a miscarriage of justice.

O Ceallagh came upon the scene where two British soldiers, apparently spying on the republican funeral, came under attack from angry mourners. His lawyers will tell the court their client was a victim caught up in the turmoil and politics of the conflict in the North of Ireland.

O Cealleagh, who did not testify at his trial in the north, is expected to take the stand, along with his father Jim who has flown to the US for that purpose.

The prosecution are currently making their case at the Los Angeles court, where the immigration judge cleared the court of the public and press at the prosecution’s request.

Assistant US Attorney Richard Vinet told the court that US national security and the relationship between law enforcement agencies in the United States and Northern Ireland would be harmed if the video evidence and the testimony by a PSNI police officer were allowed in open court.

Judge Rose Peters barred the public and reporters from viewing the alleged PSNI/RUC police video evidence.

According to prosecution documents, O’Cealleagh was videotaped by a British army helicopter hovering over the scene, a French news team and a British media crew, said Eamann McMenamin, a lawyer from Belfast, who is working on O’Cealleagh’s behalf.

The helicopter tape was of poor quality and British prosecutors created a “compilation” tape using all three videos to gain O Cealleagh’s conviction, McMenamin said.

O Cealleagh was convicted of kidnapping, causing grievous bodily harm and of aiding and abetting in the murders. He and two others who became known as the “Casement Three” were sentenced to life under the “common purpose” legal theory that was criticised by human rights groups.

O Cealleagh said before the protective order was signed that he was on the periphery of an angry crowd of mourners which set on the soldiers after they drove at speed into the crowd and later drew weapons.

“I never touched any of the two corporals,” said O Cealleagh, who also said that he was never a member of the IRA.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News