A County Tyrone republican has lashed out at the justice system in the North of Ireland after charges against him and four others were quietly dropped by Crown prosecutors this week -- after more than 14 months held without bail at Maghaberry prison.
The charges against Coalisland man Kevin Barry Murphy were based on alleged forensic evidence linking him to a claimed arms find in County Armagh in April last year.
Another man, Patrick Carty from Dungannon, was also freed after the PSNI police and prosecutors abandoned claims that his fingerprints were discovered on a mortar rocket.
Relatives and friends of the two men, who packed into the public gallery at Armagh Magistrates Court, were filmed entering and leaving the court complex by Special Branch police.
Murphy was previously cleared by a court of IRA charges in 2004 after it emerged that a police informer had been used to lure him and three others to a site where a rocket launcher had been hidden.
He said he had been interned by remand [‘awaiting trial’] and denied ever being a member of the ‘Real IRA’.
“In the past I have been acquitted of being a member of that organisation,” he said.
“The important point is that for the last 14 months we have asked for the fingerprint evidence and they have failed to produce it. It is tantamount to internment by remand.
“Someone said we were guilty of something without producing the evidence. That is the strategy being used against republicans. In the eighties we had the super-grass trials, in the nineties we had shoot-to-kill and today they are using internment by remand.”
He also called for the role of the PSNI and the forensic scientists used in his arrest and detention to be examined.
“An independent body needs to look at how those who step outside the box, those who are not pro-Good Friday Agreement republicans, end up in Maghaberry,” he said.
“What happened to us is also an indictment of constitutional nationalism which has remained silent on the issue.
“It’s an indictment of the new political dispensation on policing and justice.”
The two men have spent their detention at Maghaberry prison in County Antrim, where they joined in the ongoing no-wash protest against criminalisation by other political prisoners held there.
Arms charges against three other men were also dropped this week, although they continue to be held at Maghaberry without bail.
Mr Murphy’s lawyer, Peter Corrigan said the charges had been dropped to avoid having to finally reveal the statements of evidence.
“We have been requesting the so-called fingerprint evidence from the police station from his arrest right through the proceedings,” he said.
“We initiated experts to go into the lab and that request was refused.
“All of a sudden they know we are going to see the statements of evidence and they withdraw the charges.”
He said he believed his client had been targeted for imprisonment and ‘malicious prosecution’.
“This is effectively internment by remand when you don’t produce the evidence to justify the detention,” he said.
“In light of this case we are calling for custody time limits to be brought in so the prosecution cannot do this, so they cannot delay cases without producing the evidence.
“This case is going to be referred to the police ombudsman and we will be initiating civil proceedings for malicious prosecution.”