Bid to have top loyalist returned to jail

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde is seeking to have top loyalist Ihab Shoukri sent back to prison, it was revealed tonight.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde is seeking to have top loyalist Ihab Shoukri sent back to prison, it was revealed tonight.

Papers have been lodged at the High Court in Belfast in an attempt to have his bail revoked.

It follows the arrest of Shoukri, 31, along with 16 other men when police stormed a pub in the north of the city during an alleged dress rehearsal for a paramilitary show of strength.

At tomorrow’s hearing a judge will be asked to examine if he was in breach of bail conditions imposed while he waits to go on trial for membership of the outlawed Ulster Defence Association.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said: “We can confirm papers have been lodged, but can make no further comment.”

Shoukri, whose brother Andre is widely believed to command the UDA’s North Belfast brigade, escaped arrest 18 months ago for being found in Belfast despite being banned from the city.

Alban Maginness, a nationalist SDLP Assemblyman, backed the latest move, but insisted it should have come sooner.

The North Belfast MLA expressed astonishment that Shoukri was not charged despite allegedly being caught in a room full of men dressed in terrorist outfits.

He said: “After the exceptional public comment it doesn’t surprise me that this belated action has been taken by police in relation to Mr Shoukri.

“The action by police is overdue. It would appear they are reacting to public comment.”

Earlier today 11 men were remanded in custody today over the police raid on the Alexandra Bar.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court was packed as the suspects appeared in the dock one by one to face charges of helping to set up a meeting of the UDA and Ulster Freedom Fighters.

They were arrested after police fired CS gas during the swoop on the pub, located in the heart of the Tiger’s Bay district, last Thursday.

Before the men appeared, magistrate Des Perry warned he would clear the courtroom if any disturbances broke out.

Four of the accused: John Davis, 48, of Glebe Manor, Glengormley; Alan McClean, 19, of Westland Drive; Gary McKenzie, 34, of Claire Heights; and Samuel Robinson, 37, of Arosa Crescent, all of Belfast, were charged with assisting in arranging or managing a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation – the UDA or UFF.

The other seven were accused of the same offence plus an additional charge of dressing like a member of the banned groups.

They were: Stephen Crawford, 21, of Hillview Avenue and Robert Neill, 21, from Fairview Crescent, both Newtownabbey; George McHenry, 38, of Ardoyne Road; Gary Dunseath, 22, from Upper Canning Street; James Fisher, 36, of Alliance Road; Mark Green, 23, of Hogarth Street; and Gary Dicks, 21, from Glenrosa Street, all of Belfast.

Shoukri was among six other men and a woman questioned as part of the police operation who have been released while further reports are prepared for the Public Prosecution Service.

Several of the men who were charged grinned and waved at supporters in the public gallery.

Even though they all denied the charges, a detective sergeant told the court she could connect them all with the offences.

During cross-examination by solicitors representing some of the suspects she confirmed the evidence against them was circumstantial.

When the offences were put to him Robinson replied: “Not guilty to any of the charges.”

Some of the others refused to comment during questioning at Antrim Serious Crime Suite, Northern Ireland’s anti-terrorist detention centre, because they were not given guarantees that their conversations with legal representatives were not being recorded, the court was told.

This follows the case of Co Derry-based solicitor Manmohan “Johnny” Sandhu, who faces charges including attempting to incite murder after his consultations with loyalist paramilitary suspect clients were secretly taped at the centre.

All 11 men were remanded in custody to appear again via videolink on April 3.

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