A number of the charges presented against eirigi activist Stephen Murney were dramatically thrown out of court last Friday in the latest development in a case which has been widely described as internment by remand.
Stephen Murney has been held for over a year on a variety of charges including the possession of “items for use in terrorism” -- which turned out to be an old band uniform and toy guns belonging to his son.
But after summoning the defence and prosecution teams to a brief sitting last Friday evening (29th November), the judge announced that he was dismissing those charges.
The charges had featured heavily in every court hearing during the past twelve months as the PSNI and prosecution attempted to portray Mr Murney’s involvement in a “terrorist conspiracy”.
The prosecution referred to “paramilitary uniforms” and “Uzi machine guns” that could be used in “paramilitary shows of strength”. However, the defence presented photographs of Murney wearing the uniform in a band and evidence showing that the toy guns were indeed toys.
Despite the significant advance, Mr Murney still remains in custody and will face trial in January in relation to “collecting and possessing items that may be of use to terrorists”. These are understood to be photographs of PSNI harassment of citizens, raids and houses searches.
Eirigi said the photographs had been taken quite openly by Mr Murney to document and record human rights abuses and infringements of civil liberties by the PSNI in his role as publicity officer for the party in the Newry area.
Speaking after the dismissal of the charges, eirigi’s Breandan Mac Cionnaith said, “It has taken a full year for Stephen’s case to reach this pre-trial stage. With this dismissal of some charges, it is clear that the entire PSNI/prosecution case is entirely without any foundation whatsoever.
“From the outset, we have said that these charges were nothing more than a spurious means to remove a committed and dedicated party activist from his family and his community. In short, Stephen’s imprisonment has been tantamount to ‘internment by remand’.”
“His continued imprisonment makes a complete nonsense of the propaganda spewed out by constitutional nationalist politicians who say that this Six County state has been reformed; that the PSNI is completely different to the RUC, and that political policing is a thing of the past.
“Those politicians know the truth but they also know by publicly acknowledging that truth, they admit to their own failure.”
A large protest took place in Newry the following day to highlight the anniversary of Mr Murney’s ongoing detention in Maghaberry, where he has now been held for one full year.
Following the protest, those attending were addressed by eirigi’s national chairperson, Brian Leeson, who welcomed the latest news of the case.
“While this development is to be welcomed the British state or British judiciary were owed no thanks for dropping charges that never should have been brought against Stephen in the first place,” he said. “The oppressed owe no thanks to their oppressor.”
Mr Leeson said the fact that Stephen had been held captive was part of a counter-insurgency strategy, “a strategy that has seen the British state intern a number of key republican activists over the last number of years.
“Despite this socialist republicanism remains the most potent threat to the status quo on both sides of the border, a fact which the Dublin and London governments are keenly aware of”, he said.
COREY APPEAL REJECTED
Meanwhile, fellow internee Martin Corey this week lost a Supreme Court appeal over a decision to overturn his release on bail.
Mr Corey has now been in jail without charge for over three years following the original British internment order in 2010.
The day after his release on bail appeared to have been secured at the High Court in Belfast, in July last year, the British government succeeded in convincing the Court of Appeal to overturn that decision.
Lawyers for the 63-year-old Lurgan republican presented their case to the Supreme Court in October.
Cait Trainor, chairman of the Release Martin Corey Committee, said: “The treatment of Martin Corey is nothing but vindictive. They have not given an acceptable reason for keeping him in jail, never mind refusing the bail application.”