McKevitt refuses to leave his cell

The alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt refused to leave his cell when his trial for directing terrorism resumed at the Special Criminal Court today.

The alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt refused to leave his cell when his trial for directing terrorism resumed at the Special Criminal Court today.

The trial continued in his absence with McKevitt remaining in his cell.

McKevitt sacked his legal team yesterday and the court ordered that the trial should continue and refused McKevitt's request to absent himself from the trial.

But today when the trial resumed, a prison officer gave evidence that McKevitt was refusing to come up from the cells area and into the courtroom.

Prison Officer Laurence Hogan told the court: "He has just informed me as the officer in charge of the escort that he is refusing to come up voluntarily to court."

Mr Justice Richard Johnson, presiding, then told the prison officer to go back to McKevitt and inform him that the court had directed that he come to court.

The prison officer went down to the cells area and a few minutes later was seen re-emerging into the dock. Mr Justice Johnson told the prison officer: "Under no circumstances use any force if he doesn't wish to come up."

Prosecuting counsel Mr George Birmingham SC told the court that McKevitt appeared to be exercising his option to remain where he was.

He said that arrangements would be made to provide him with a copy of the daily transcript of the trial and he had been provided with a copy of yesterday's proceedings at Portlaoise prison.

Mr Justice Johnson said that having heard the evidence of Prison Officer Hogan and having heard McKevitt on two occasions yesterday the court was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that McKevitt has "intelligently, voluntarily and unequivocally decided to refuse to come into the court despite all diligent efforts".

The judge said that McKevitt should not be compelled either by force or by the threat of force to come before the court.

His absence should not be taken as any admission of guilt and did not add to the prosecution case, the judge added.

The judge said that the trial should continue.

It was the 25th day of the trial of Michael McKevitt (aged 53), of Beech Park, Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth who denies membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise the IRA, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann between August 29, 1999 and March 28, 2001. He also denies directing the activities of the same organisation.

The trial is continuing.

More in this section