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4 May 2000 Edition

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New ploy to block Finucane inquiry

Stobie charged with second killing



The third John Stevens inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the 1989 killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane is turning into a Stevens Watergate, according to the late solicitor's brother.

The decision to bring a second murder charge against loyalist and RUC double agent William Stobie, already accused of killing Finucane, suggests that the RUC and British government are using every opportunity to attempt to prevent a public inquiry into the killing of the solicitor.

The Finucane family has stressed that the latest charges against Stobie underline yet again the need for a wider and more comprehensive inquiry to be established.

Sinn Féin says that the charges are an attempt to confuse and deflect attention from compelling evidence of collusion against crown forces.

In court on Wednesday, Stobie denied killing Adam Lambert in 1987. Lambert, a 19-year-old student from Highfield in West Belfast, was shot by loyalists because they thought he was a Catholic.

Stobie was recruited by RUC Special Branch after it emerged that he had supplied the gun and was the getaway driver in Lambert's killing. Indeed, the lack of new evidence in the Lambert case was evident when Stobie's bail application was accepted later on Wednesday.

Campaigners are now asking why the RUC decided only in March to change the terms of reference of Stevens' inquiry to include Lambert's killing, when compelling evidence had been available for some time.

The new charges brought against Stobie will further complicate and confuse the Stevens investigation and are sure to delay a public inquiry by months and possibly years.

Until now, the British government has brushed off calls for a public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane, claiming that such an inquiry would be prejudicial to criminal proceedings, notably in the case of Stobie.

But a number of human rights organisations, Amnesty International and the United Nations have rubbished this claim. The UN Special Rapporteur said in his latest report that he did ``not consider that a judicial commission of inquiry would be prejudicial to any criminal proceedings''.

He added that ``prosecutions or possible prosecutions should not be used as a reason not to set up a public judicial commission of inquiry into the murder to ascertain all the circumstances, including whether there was state collusion.''

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has also added his name to calls for a public inquiry.

Martin Finucane, brother of the late solicitor, said that the new charges ``confirm the family's suspicions that the current investigation is a smokescreen and a totally inadequate forum to obtain the full facts surrounding Pat's murder. It now appears that the investigation is becoming the Stevens Watergate and raises serious questions as to the motives of John Stevens.

``These additional charges have thrown his investigation an unsavoury lifeline and can only be viewed as a delaying tactic to prolong and justify his investigation.

``Serious questions need to be put to the RUC Special Branch and the DPP's office regarding their roles in this whole case. Both of these agencies have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent iinformation about Pat's murder and William Stobie's role in the past coming into the public domain. If they had nothing to hide, why was it done?''

Martin Finucane said his family shares the Lambert family's wish to see justice done but the contradiction and confusion of the latest episode of the Stobie case reinforces their belief that the whole investigation is a smokescreen.

``The responsibility for addressing this outstanding case rests with the British authorities and I firmly believe it requires an effective response from Tony Blair,'' said Finucane.

``This is information that the RUC have had intimate knowledge of for the past 11 years,'' said Sinn Féin's Bairbre de Brún. ``Stobie was a double agent, like Brian Nelson before him. The real issue here is collusion. That is why the British government does not want a public inquiry.''
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