Special Criminal Court clears way for McKevitt trial

 

The Special Criminal Court today paved the way for the trial of alleged Real IRA leader Mr Michael McKevitt to open early next year.

The court's three judges turned down an application by defence lawyers to be given access to documents relating to evidence due to be presented against Mr McKevitt.

Mr McKevitt (51) from Dundalk, Co Louth, is the first person to be charged with directing terrorism under the terms of legislation introduced by the Government in response to the 1998 Omagh attack, when 29 peopled died and more than 200 were injured. He is also accused of membership of an illegal organisation.

After today's reserved judgment - following a hearing earlier this month - Mr McKevitt's legal team indicated they were considering appealing against the decision.

In that hearing, the judges were told of concern among the authorities of the consequences of releasing papers about evidence due to be given by witnesses in the case.

Particular fears were spelled out for the safety of key witness Mr David Rupert and members of his family.

Garda superintendent Martin Callinan told of "several attempts" by the Real IRA to trace Mr Rupert, an American recruited by the FBI and British intelligence to relay information to them after infiltrating dissident republican groups.

He is said to have demanded a two million dollar deal to testify against Mr McKevitt.

Supt Callinan said there was a "real and very substantive" threat to Mr Rupert and added: "I have no doubt of the lengths the Real IRA will go identifying people who supply information to the Gardai and the retribution that follows."

PA