McKevitt appeal begins

The appeal by convicted Real IRA leader Michael Mc Kevitt against his conviction has opened at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Dublin.

The appeal by convicted Real IRA leader Michael Mc Kevitt against his conviction has opened at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Dublin.

Mc Kevitt (aged 54), of Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth was jailed for 20 years by the Special Criminal Couret after he was convicted of directing the activities of a terrorist organisation between August 29, 1999 and October 23, 2000. He was the first person to be convicted in the Republic of the offence which was brought in after the Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh in 1998 in which 29 people died.

McKevitt also received a six years concurrent prison sentence for membership of an illegal organisation which the court said was the Real IRA.

Today three judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal began hearing legal submissions by Mc Kevitt's lawyers and the appela hearing is expected to last four days. Mc Kevitt was in court for the appeal which was also attended by his wife Bernadette Sands Mc Kevitt.

McKevitt's counsel Mr Hugh Hartnett SC said there were 42 grounds of appeal.

He said that the case against Mc Kevitt has relied exclusively on the evidence of Mr David Rupert, an American who was a paid agent of two security services, the British Security Service and the FBI.

Mr Hartnett said that Mr Rupert's background, credibility and veracity were central to the prosecution case against Mc Kevitt.

Counsel submitted that siginificant areas of disclosure about Mr Rupert's past, incuding his tax affairs, his criminality and payments made to him by the FBI had been sought by the defence but had not been provided.

Mr Hartnett said that a statement by a New York Strate trooper had described Mr Rupert as a lifelong criminal, drugs smuggler and a smuggler of arms and explosives. He said that the defence were interested in why on two occasions in 1974 and 1994 Mr Rupert was under investigation for various offences and on both occasions he had been recruited by the FBI as an agent.

He said that Mr Rupert had settled a $750,000 tax bill with the US Internal Revenue Service for $25,000 and it would appear that there was some involvement by the security services with that.

Mr Hartnett also said that documents provided by the British Security Service referred to Rupert's "trickinesses" and the defence wanted to know what these referred to.

Mr Hartnett said there had been a significant failure of disclosure which tainted the whole trial.

The appeal is continuing.

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