New twist in Tohill case

The Sinn Féin leadership has issued a call for four republicans who failed to turn up in court for sentencing after admitting the abduction of a dissident republican to turn themselves in.

Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness yesterday appealed for those on-the-run to "make themselves available to the court".

Last December the four pleaded guilty to the abduction of Bobby Tohill and were freed on bail awaiting sentence. After originally claiming he was a victim of a political attack by mainstream republicans, Tohill later said he had been used as a political pawn.

In February 2004 PSNI police, apparently acting with prior informationm, stopped a van at the Millfield junction with the Falls Road in Belfast.

Inside the van was an injured Bobby Tohill, who had been publicly abducted from a well-known local bar.

Although the PSNI blamed the Provisional IRA for the abduction, IRA membership charges were withdrawn as the organisation was not specified as being in breach of its ceasefire under law.

When the four men failed to show up the court issued bench warrants for their arrest.

On Saturday Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams urged them to return to court.

This was echoed by his party colleague Martin McGuinness yesterday: "I think what they should do is to recognise that they are placing themselves, their families at a particular disadvantage.

"There is no gain for them whatsoever. What they should clearly do is present themselves to face the char-ges that they pleaded guilty on."

A police search is said to be continuing on both sides of the border.

Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the men's disappearance could have serious implications for the peace process.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News