A lawyer acting for a group of republican activists held after an MI5 entrapment operation has said that British military intelligence “appears to be ignorant of the rule of law”.
Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law hit out at what he says is the ongoing failure to reveal whether evidence from MI5 has been supplied to prosecutors.
Nine republicans associated with Saoradh, including a number of leading figures, and a Palestinian activist based in Scotland were all arrested on IRA charges in August. They had been lured to a bugged property in County Tyrone by double agent Dennis McFadden, and the charges are based on the conversations which took place there.
The experience of the activists has so far followed the path of internment by remand. All have been ordered held without bail while the judicial process drags on.
At the most recent review, the defence pointed to the failure of MI5 to account for its evidence as a delaying strategy.
While accepting a police file had been submitted, he said: “We remind the court this was a joint investigation and MI5 are equally responsible under their statutory obligations to comply. We see no justifiable reason why MI5 fail to answer whether they have provided all their up-to-date evidential material.”
The prosecution has not revealed what the file contains, the source of the evidence or whether it is partial or complete.
Mr Mackin continued: “We mark the PPS card now of our extreme concerns, should it turn out only police material has been provided. That will inevitably cause delay, prejudicing our clients and have ramifications, not least the potential that the court has been misled.”
The defence asked the court to direct the PPS “to answer the question — has MI5 material been provided as part of the investigation file? I imagine that could be answered very easily.”
However, the judge refused, saying only that “the court will keep a very close eye going forward, as in every case to ensure there is no undue delay”.
Mr Mackin added: “My pessimistic view, which experience dictates, is that MI5 appear to be ignorant of the rule of law. I can put it no higher. The court shouldn’t acquiesce and should ensure an investigative body takes all steps of compliance.”
Saoradh said MI5’s failure to provide any disclosures to defence lawyers was “prolonging any trial and keeping political activists off the streets and in a British jail”.
They added: “In the case of Dr Issam Hijjawi, there is widespread concerns due to the ill health and wider medical complications he suffers from.”
A recent hunger protest was undertaken by some 50 republican prisoners against the isolation of Dr Hijjawi by the British authorities at Maghaberry.