17 April 1997 Edition

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Councillor wins Major appeal

Sinn Féin councillor Mary Nelis won her appeal against a ludicrous conviction of disorderly behaviour arising from the notorious John Major visit to Derry on 3 May 1995. She was among only eight of the 21 people convicted after RUC attacked a peaceful protest outside Derry's Tower Museum where the British PM was to appear. The appeals, heard in September 1996, followed the longest trial ever in a magistrates court in the Six Counties, lasting 56 days from October 1995 to February 1996 and costing over £1million.

During the appeals, defendants stressed that one unit of the RUC based at Derry's Strand Road Barracks, had deliberately fabricated evidence against leading republicans.

Despite ample evidence, including `lost' and altered RUC notebooks and contradictory RUC testimony, Judge Patrick Markey dismissed most of the appeals, upholding the convictions. He claimed that ``unfounded'' counterclaims against members of the RUC were ``unhelpful'', and ``only reduced the credibility of the evidence of the defendants''.

Others who won their appeals included local PRO DominicDoherty, party activists Gary and Paul Fleming, and Charles Lambertonof the Bogside Residents Group. Five others won appeal againstdisorderly behaviour, but heard Markey actually uphold convictions ofassault against them. Six others convicted of disorderly behaviour had convictions upheld.

Councillor Nelis pointed out, ``Although Markey upheld most convictions, the fact that he did not increase any penalties flies in the face of normal procedure. It demonstrates his serious doubts about the credibility of the entire case. Whatever his comments, it shows he attached no credibility to the RUC witnesses. These appeals were an attempt by the British to justify the £1m of public money spent on this blatant effort to silence peaceful protest by nationalists during the ceasefire period.

``These people should never have been before the courts. They were exercising their right to peaceful protest on their own streets when attacked by the RUC. The RUC's desperate performance, with manufactured evidence, conspiracy and perjury admitted openly on the witness stand, was surpassed only by the court's willing collaboration in this strategy.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1