Police in Belfast today mounted a huge security operation outside the city’s magistrates’ courts as supporters of leading loyalist Andre Shoukri gathered in a show of solidarity with him.
The 28-year-old Ulster Defence Association brigadier was due to appear at Laganside Courts Complex on blackmail, intimidation and money-laundering charges.
Supporters, many of them wearing hooded tops, baseball caps and scarves, gathered at the complex.
At least a dozen police Land Rovers were also lined up at the front of the court.
Police in riot gear also stood by the gates of the complex while Mr Shoukri waited to appear before magistrates.
Some supporters were allowed inside the building.
Across the road in the city’s Waterfront Hall, bemused parents and children gathered to take part in an Irish dancing competition.