British Security Service mislead McKevitt case, court hears

The British Security Service attempted to mislead the prosecution, defence and the Special Criminal Court at the trial of convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt, his lawyer claimed today.

The British Security Service attempted to mislead the prosecution, defence and the Special Criminal Court at the trial of convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt, his lawyer claimed today.

Mr Hugh Hartnett SC told the Court of Criminal Appeal that the system of disclosure adopted by the British Security Service mislead the court as well as the prosecution and defence.

"It seems open to interpretation that an attempt was made by the British Security Service to delude not only the prosecution and defence, but the court , by the creation of a document to put a slant or colour on certain things that had been said unambiguously at an earlier stage," he said.

Mr Hartnett said that issues relating to the criminality of FBI agent David Rupert, who was the chief prosecution witness against Mc Kevitt, have been raised by the defence but there had been an attempt by the British Security Service to deliberatley sanitise embarrassing documentation relating to him.

Mc Kevitt (aged 54), of Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth was jailed for 20 years by the Special Criminal Court in August 2003 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 State for the offence which was introduced after the Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh in 1998 in which 29 people died.

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

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

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

He said that the case against McKevitt had 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 McKevitt.

The appeal is continuing.

More in this section