Prominent republican Colin Duffy continues to be held without trial after a judge astonishingly declared that his release might encourage breakaway IRA groups.
Mr Duffy has been held for over two years at Maghaberry jail in connection with a ‘Real IRA’ gun attack at a British Army base in the north of Ireland in March 2009.
A former miscarriage of justice victim and a prominent client of murdered human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson, Mr Duffy has been subjected to abuse and harassment by British Crown forces over two decades. He is routinely subjected to violent strip searches by prison warders on his way to and from court proceedings.
Opposing his renewed application for bail, Crown counsel Tessa Kitson insisted that there was no need to identify which particular activity Mr Duffy is currently being accused of.
Defence barrister Mark Mulholland pointed out the prosecution was unable to attribute a role to his client due to the lack of evidence.
He also pointed out that the Crown no longer alleged that Mr Duffy was one of the ‘Real IRA’ gunmen, while two witnesses had also failed to pick him out in the identification processes.
But refusing bail, Justice Deeny claimed that the nature of the alleged offences was overriding.
The judge said the Real IRA attack on the Massereene base, in which two British soldiers died, was a “ruthlessly executed terrorist attack”.
He added: “That dissident republican campaign continues, with a further tragic murder (Constable Ronan Kerr) in relatively recent months.
“Therefore one must infer that his release would carry a real risk of encouragement being given to that campaign, i.e., the real risk of further offences.”
Speaking after the bail hearing, a spokesperson for the Friends of Colin Duffy campaign group said:
“Colin has now spent almost two and a half years on remand. The indications are that his trial will not commence until next March. This will mean that Colin will have spent three years in prison without having been convicted of any offence. It is a clear case of internment without trial.
“The British state have shown once again today, through their judiciary, that the policy of holding Irish republicans as political hostages is as acceptable to them today as it was in the past.
“In refusing Colin bail, Justice Deeny has used a twisted sense of logic.
To infer that Colin’s release ‘would carry a real risk of encouragement’ to an armed campaign is ludicrous and shows that the judiciary have learned nothing from the past. He is clearly of the view that it is right that Colin should be detained as a political hostage.
“Anyone with an understanding of the history of conflict in Ireland knows that it is injustice that fuels the fire of conflict. It seems that the British judiciary have yet to learn that lesson.”