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2 September 2004 Edition

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Tohill accused granted bail

The four Belfast men charged in connection with the alleged false imprisonment of so-called dissident republican Bobby Tohill have been released on High Court bail.

Gerard McCrory, Harry Fitzsimmons and Thomas Tolan were released on bail at Belfast High Court on Friday 27 August. A fourth accused, Liam Rainey had been granted bail on Wednesday 25 August.

The four are accused of beating and unlawfully imprisoning Tohill on 20 February this year.

Granting bail until the preliminary inquiry into the case on 22 September, Judge Nicholson told the court that the prosecution would have to face the reality that the chances of any conviction on the basis of the evidence was evaporating because no witnesses from the bar from which Tohill was allegedly abducted had come forward and Tohill himself said the four did not assault him.

The four were instructed to report to the PSNI three times a week and to have no contact with Tohill or their co-accused and to obey a curfew.

Finger of blame

Within hours of the Tohill incident in February, PSNI boss Hugh Orde pointed the finger of blame at the IRA, although the four never faced IRA membership charges.

Orde's remarks were, however, seized upon by unionists, who called for Sinn Féin to be excluded from February's political talks.

And two months later, in April, a special report from the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) into the Tohill incident was used to again scapegoat Sinn Féin for the difficulties in the peace process.

Not only did the IMC impose financial sanctions on Sinn Féin, it "polluted the Peace Process and put another nail in its coffin", said party chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin.

McLaughlin added that the decision by the IMC to produce a special report on the Tohill incident smacked of the grossest political intervention and stood in stark contrast to reports concerning ongoing unionist paramilitary attacks on Catholics.

The party's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, described the IMC report "as the work of securocrats pursuing their usual anti-republican agenda".

Republicans said the two governments were attempting to exclude Sinn Féin from the political process.

In a statement released to An Phoblacht on Wednesday 25 February, a spokesperson for the IRA leadership made it clear that the Army did not authorise any action against Tohill.

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