A Tyrone man was released yesterday after a non-jury court cleared him of charges of conspiring to bomb a police base four years ago and membership of the breakaway ‘Real IRA’.
Brendan O’Connor, from Pomeroy, is the fourth republican to be released in recent months amid accusations of tampering and fabrication of supposed DNA finds by the PSNI police.
Mr O’Connor’s DNA profile was allegedly found on the inside of a pair of gloves which were found a mile from a burnt out ‘getaway’ car following a car bomb attack on Stewartstown police station in July 2000.
The Diplock judge, Justice Weatherup, said he could not connect the gloves to the bombing.
The case is one of several this year in which it is alleged that police sought to frame republicans using planted forensic evidence.
After more than four years behind bars, Mr O’Connor was delighted at his acquittal. Reading from a prepared statement outside the court Mr O’Connor said he had been held on “two trumped up charges” and that he intended his legal team to report the matter to the Police Ombudsman.
Asked if he was a “dissident republican”, Mr O’Connor replied: “I’m a republican. That’s the only comment I want to make.”
The release was welcomed by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association had expressed our concern over what we considered to be trumped up charges against him.
In a statement, the groups said: “Ever since the Brogan and Carroll case, we along with other supporters have asked the question, how many others?
“We take no pleasure in finding ourselves right once again and point instead to this as further confirmation of the continuing corruption inherent within the Six County State.”
Meanwhile, the decision of a Belfast court to grant bail to a suspected UDA armed robber a day after he was originally remanded has been criticised by Sinn Féin.
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said republicans “know only too well the biased and partisan nature of the judiciary in the six counties.
“That is why we made it an issue in the negotiations which led to the Agreement.
“ Time and again senior and well known UDA figures appear in court receive automatic bail and if ever convicted receive paltry sentences. Contrast this with republicans and nationalists. There are countless cases of people spending years on remand with no prospect of bail. There is no comparison between the severity of sentences handed out to republicans and any other group.”