As the family of Sean O’Muireagain continued their anxious wait for news last night, the British Embassy claimed its officials first asked for access to the 42-year-old “over the weekend”.
Mr O’Muireagain, a freelance journalist and well-known Irish language activist, was arrested on Saturday afternoon after being stopped at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israeli security forces claimed he was arrested on suspicion of being a member of the RIRA who had travelled to Palestine to train militants in explosive techniques. But it appears there may have been a mix up, that the red flag was raised by British intelligence because there is a suspected republican militant by the name of John Morgan, the anglicised version of Sean O’Muireagain.
A member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, his colleagues claim he was in Palestine on a fact-finding mission. He was also filing reports for the Northern-based Irish language newspaper Lá. His father Liam has dismissed claims his son was in any way involved with the RIRA.
Mr O’Muireagain was travelling on a British passport. A British Embassy spokeswoman said yesterday the request for access was made the “moment we were made aware of the detention”. That was over the weekend, she said, at the latest Sunday evening.
The official said the embassy had no idea whether Mr O’Muireagain had seen a lawyer or what condition he was in after nearly four days of questioning. The embassy said access had not been refused, just that it had not yet been granted.
Privately, embassy officials are unhappy at the Israeli stance. “We are trying to press for it a little harder,” said one.
However, Mr O’Muireagain’s family have been told there has been dialogue between the British and the Israelis. It is claimed the Israelis have said the Belfast man, who denies any connection to the RIRA, has given plausible answers. A source close to the family said: “The problem is that the Israelis are saying to the British: ‘You are the ones that told us about this person, John Morgan, so it’s up to you to give him the all clear.’
“They are waiting for British intelligence to carry out a review and come back.
“What I can’t understand is that it’s taking so long. How long does it take to check out his details?”