Tohill accused faces extradition north
Tohill accused faces extradition north

A Belfast man is to face extradition to the North in regard to the ‘Tohill incident’ in which mainstream republicans allegedly kidnapped and assaulted a dissident.

‘Harry Fitzsimmons was convicted of kidnapping Mr Bobby’ Tohill from Kelly’s Cellars bar in west Belfast city centre on February 20, 2004.

At the time the kidnapping was blamed by the PSNI on the Provisional IRA. The kidnapping caused serious political fallout with the peace process and led to financial sanctions in the North against Sinn Fein.

Mr Fitzsimmons was arrested by a specialised police unit in a swoop operation last week in Dundalk, County Louth and brought before the High Court in Dublin to face a European Arrest Warrant.

In February 2004 the PSNI, acting on a tip-off, intercepted a van. Mr Tohill was said to have been found inside, badly beaten and bleeding profusely.

The arrest warrent states our men were also found in the van, who were wearing forensic suits and disposable surgical gloves.

It is further claimed that Mr Tohill, who declined to make a statement, did in fact tell the PSNI that the men had told him that he was to be “fed to the pigs in South Armagh.”

Tohill later told reporters that his abductors used gas to knock him unconscious after he fought with them at the bar for ten minutes.

The former INLA member told how the men beat him with “US-style black police batons” and claimed they were going to “take me across the border, torture me and execute me”.

The incident strongly polarised feelings in the republican community and was disowned by Sinn Fein. Mr Tohill ultimately complained that he had been used as a “political pawn” and said he did not want his abductors to go to jail.

All four pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court and were awaiting sentencing when they failed to appear at a subsequent hearing. Sinn Fein subsequently urged the men to hand themselves in.

Two of the men, Gerard McCrory and Thomas Tolan, were arrested in the North and in January 2007 they given prison sentences of between six and seven years.

However, for almost four years, Mr Fitzsimmons was considered to be on the run. The whereabouts of a fourth, Liam Rainey, still remains unknown.

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© 2009 Irish Republican News