Irish Republican News · August 23, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Bailed Donnelly blasts ‘ridiculous’ charges

Prominent republican Gary Donnelly has been released on bail after he appeared in court in Derry on Thursday.

The charges stemming from claims that Mr Donnelly, a leading member of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement (32C5M) made a statement to a journalist claiming responsibility for ‘Real IRA’ attacks.

Outside the court, there were some scuffles as PSNI police attempted to push away over 50 supporters of the 32CSM, who were staging a protest.

District Judge Barney McElholm was told that on being charged Mr Donnelly said: “It is absolutely ridiculous. I have been set up for my political beliefs .

“As a sign of how ridiculous this whole thing is, I was questioned for hours about the shooting ofa former mayor of Derry before they realised that it was a different person.”

A PSNI man claimed it had evidence linking Mr Donnelly to a mobile phone used to claim responsibility for two ‘Real IRA’ pipebomb attacks and a so-called punishment shooting.

He claimed the admission had been made to a Derry freelance journalist.

Solicitor Patrick McGurk, for Mr Donnelly, said Mr MacDermott had given a statement to PSNI one month after the incidents last year. He was adamant that the caller who claimed the attack had not been Mr Donnelly, who was familiar to him.

Mr McGurk said that when the PSNI interviewed Mr MacDermott again on Thursday of this week they had seized the journalist’s mobile phone.

The seizure, under warrant, was criticised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and politicians. Mr MacDermott saId the seizure infringed the freedom of the press and also made it impossible for him to continue his work as a freelance journalist because his phone contained all his contact numbers.

The PSNI later returned the phone’s SIM card, but not the phone.

“The fact that I got the SIM card back is a welcome development although it does not change the basic point that they should never have taken the phone in the first place,” he said.

“There is nothing on the phone that police did not have access to.

“There is no justifiable reason for taking the handset and I would once again call on the PSNI to return the phone immediately.”

The court’s decision to bail Mr Donnelly on bail was widely welcomed, but Republican Network for Unity (RNU) Chair Danny McBrearty said it was “ironic” that the PSNI were using “the same discredited tactics of censorship by trumped-up charges and intimidation against political spokespersons and journalists, reminiscent of the Thatcher era”.

“The charge against Gary Donnelly is patently ridiculous, denied even by Eamonn MacDermott, the very journalist who took the call and knows Mr. Donnelly’s voice.

“At one time the British routinely targeted prominent Sinn Fein members with trumped-up charges, which would be dismissed on the eve of trial for lack of evidence.

“The real objective everyone understood was censorship and intimidation of those providing a Republican analysis critical of British rule that the crown did not want voiced.

“This charge seems to be repeat of that failed strategy against those prepared to provide, as well as to journalists prepared to record or report an alternative Republican analysis.

“Last week, we heard much about the need and benefits of engagement and dialogue. Today’s actions speak louder than those words.”

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