Northern Ireland

MI5 weapons case judgement due

Belfast Crown Court

A judge in the non-jury trial of two men accused of terrorism charges has retired to consider his verdict.

Paul McCaugherty, 43, from Beech Court in Lurgan faces six charges including conspiring to obtain arms and explosives, IRA membership and using money for the purposes of terrorism.

Declan Gregory, 41, of Concession Road, Crossmaglen, denies two charges making property available to terrorists.

Mr Justice Hart is due to deliver his judgement soon.

During the course of the trial at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Hart heard that MI5 secret service agents posing as arms dealers mounted a two year operation between August 2004 and June 2006, directed against the Real IRA.

The Crown case alleged that throughout the numerous audio and video-taped meetings with an agent known only as 'Ali' throughout Europe, Mr McCaugherty was trying to broker a deal to buy a cache of arms and explosives.

In one video-taped interview, recorded in Istanbul in Turkey, Mr McCaugherty calling himself 'Tim' is seen telling the agent that his organisation was responsible for building the Omagh bomb and that he had the full support of the Real IRA's leadership to buy arms.

Giving evidence to the court Ali said Mr McCaugherty, who claimed to be second in command, agreed to buy for 104,000 euros: 100kgs of plastic explosives, 20 AK47 assault rifles, 10 sniper rifles, 20 handguns and 20 rocket propelled grenade launchers and that they agreed a price of 104,000 euros.

Ali alleged that Mr McCaugherty told him the purpose of the hand grenades was to "toss them inside British Army landrovers" because in the summer time when it's hot, they leave the rear doors open.

Submission

The case against Mr Gregory, who is also known as Michael Dermot, is that the profits from a restaurant he owned in Portugal would be used to finance the arms deal.

Following the completion of all the evidence on Monday lawyers for both men told Mr Justice Hart they would not be calling either of the defendants to give evidence and that both men had been advised as to the inferences the judge might draw from their failures to give evidence.

During his closing speech prosecution lawyer, Mr Kerr, said it was "perfectly clear" from all the evidence the court had heard that Mr McCaugherty was "involved in a conspiracy" to buy and smuggle guns and explosives and that as such, he was "purporting to represent" a proscribed organisation.

In reference to Mr Gregory, Mr Kerr said that details 'Tim' gave 'Ali' during their meetings about how the deal would be financed through the Portuguese property could only have come from Mr Gregory.

Defence QC Adrian Coulton for Mr McCaugherty told the court that his defence "remains that in our submission the trial should be stayed... on the legal principles of entrapment".

Mr Gregory's defence SC Phillip Magee argued that he was not guilty because his involvement was due to him acting under duress and fearing for the safety of himself and his young son.

The lawyer told the court, that as per the case Mr Gregory made during police interviews, there was a reasonable possibility that he "might have been driven to do what he did because he genuinely and reasonably believed that if he did not do so, he and his young son would either be killed or seriously injured".

In reserving his judgement Mr Justice Hart said he was grateful for counsels' submissions and said he would deliver his judgement as soon as possible but added that he was not sure if that would be before the end of the legal term next week or in the new term in September.