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23 July 1998 Edition

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Investigation into Nelson harassment

by Deirdre Feehan

The Independent Commision for Police Complaints (ICPC) has sanctioned the appointment of a senior London Metropolitan Police officer to investigate claims made by Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson of persistent RUC intimidation and harassment.

RUC chief constable, Ronnie Flannagan, nominated Metropolitan Police Commander Niall Mulvihill to oversee claims of repeated death threats against Ms Nelson by the RUC. It is the first time such a course of action has been taken and raises serious questions over the way the RUC were conducting the inquiry. The ICPC said it had raised ``serious concerns'' about the case with Marjorie Mowlam.

Ms Nelson is legal advisor to the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and solicitor for Lurgan republican Colin Duffy, who is also constantly harassed by the RUC. She said her life has been threatened as recently as two weeks ago.

Her case was highlighted in the recent UN report on intimidation of solicitors, written by the Malaysian jurist, Dr Param Cumaraswamy. His scathing report was an indictment of RUC threats against solicitors in the Six Counties. The report also called for an independent inquiry into RUC collusion in the UDA murder of leading defence lawyer Pat Finucane.

This case has caused renewed demands from human rights groups for a truly independent method of investigating complaints against the RUC as the ICPC has a supervisory role only.

Ms Nelson said she is ``reassured'' that the RUC were being replaced by the Metropolitan Commander to investigate her complaints. ``The RUC must be made to see that we are a legitimate part of the legal system, and not their enemies. It is serious enough that lawyers such as myself are harassed, but it could also affect a defendant's right to a fair trial.''
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