Gerry McGeough
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Northern Ireland candidate denies attempting murder

Staff and agencies
Monday March 12, 2007
Guardian Unlimited


Irish republican Gerry McGeough leaves Enniskillen court, Northern Ireland, today. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP
Irish republican Gerry McGeough leaves Enniskillen court, Northern Ireland, today. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP
 


The arrest in Northern Ireland of an independent republican candidate on charges of attempted murder was an abuse of the democratic process, and a return to the dark ages of political policing, a court heard today.

Gerry McGeough, a Sinn Féin defector who stood unsuccessfully for election to the Northern Ireland assembly, was arrested as he left the counting centre in Omagh last Thursday.

His lawyer told Enniskillen magistrates court that police were relying on evidence gathered in 1994, and statements from two witnesses, to charge Mr McGeough with attempting to shoot dead a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment soldier in June 1981.


He told the court: "It shows that the evidence in this case is completely untenable, it is a political prosecution.

"(The investigating officer) knows that there is no evidence from 1994 and that there is no case. If there was no case in 1994, and there was no case in 1981, then there is no case today."


Mr McGeough, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, stood as an independent republican for Fermanagh and South Tyrone on an anti-policing ticket. His high-profile election campaign netted only 814 votes.

Vincent McAnespie, 44, the husband of the Sinn Féin councillor Brenda McAnespie, faces the same charges. He was arrested near his home in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, an hour after Mr McGeough.

Both men deny three charges of attempting to murder the former soldier Sammy Brush - now a Democratic Unionist councillor in Tyrone - conspiracy to murder, and possession of two revolvers and ammunition with the intent to endanger life.

Detective Chief Inspector James Harkness said he believed he could connect both accused with the charges. He added there was a "voluminous" folder of evidence.

But Mr McAnespie's lawyer, John Fahy, said police were relying on two witness statements, compiled relatively recently, to charge his client.

He said: "This is the whole evidence which links these men to the charges against them. It appears to me to be a throwback to very dark days which we thought were gone."

He added that Mr McAnespie, whose brother Aidan was controversially shot dead by the security forces at a checkpoint in Aughnacloy, had been instrumental in pushing the peace process forward and was well respected locally.

There was a heavy police presence outside the court today, with up to a dozen riot police standing between supporters of the accused and the police cars carrying them to court.

Both men were remanded in custody to appear at Dungannon magistrates court on April 4.





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