Judge to decide if top loyalist returns to jail

A judge will decide today whether to send top Belfast loyalist Ihab Shoukri back to jail.

A judge will decide today whether to send top Belfast loyalist Ihab Shoukri back to jail.

Police chiefs are seeking to have the alleged senior Ulster Defence Association man’s bail revoked after he was arrested during a raid on a bar in the city.

Shoukri and 16 other men were seized during a suspected dress rehearsal for a UDA show of strength.

Although 11 of them have been charged and remanded in custody, he was released after being questioned.

It was the second time Shoukri, who is awaiting trial accused of UDA membership, escaped jail despite claims that he has breached bail conditions.

His QC, Arthur Harvey, insisted the loyalist had just gone into the Alexandra Bar, in north Belfast’s Tiger’s Bay district, for a quiet drink when police stormed the building.

Up to 70 CS gas canisters were fired into the pub during the planned operation last Thursday.

Even though Mr Harvey said his client had nothing to do with a gathering in an upstairs room, he claimed the men involved were meeting to plan an end to all UDA criminal activity.

But police have argued that Shoukri, by being in the same pub as paramilitary suspects, was in breach of his bail terms.

After hearing both sides at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, Judge Tom Burgess is due to give his ruling.

Shoukri has been allowed to remain free until the decision is reached.

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