Ousted loyalist charged with terrorist offences

Ousted loyalist paramilitary chief Ihab Shoukri has been charged with terrorist offences.

Ousted loyalist paramilitary chief Ihab Shoukri has been charged with terrorist offences.

Shoukri (aged 32) will appear before a magistrate in Belfast today after the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) serious crime branch accused him of new offences.

It is understood they called in a handwriting analyst as part of the inquiry into his affairs.

The expert studied an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) statement seized during a police raid on a north Belfast bar where suspected paramilitaries were gathered, sources said.

Shoukri was arrested on Tuesday, a week after the UDA expelled both him and his brother Andre (aged 29) from the outlawed paramilitary organisation.

Police would only confirm that a 32-year-old north Belfast man had been charged with terrorist offences.

But authoritative sources claimed it was linked to the statement found during searches of the Alexander Bar on the York Road.

“It was hand-written and found in somebody else’s pocket, but they have been checking to see who actually wrote it,” one claimed.

Shoukri was one of 17 men held after police in riot gear stormed the pub in March.

At the time it was alleged they were preparing for a paramilitary show of strength.

A lawyer for Shoukri claimed, however, that the men were instead preparing to announce an end to all UDA crime.

The seized document detailed how the organisation planned to take its resistance to a united Ireland into the political arena.

It also said: “However, this does not spell the end for the UDA. We want to reassure you all that the Ulster Defence Association is here to stay.”

Earlier this month, Ihab Shoukri was cleared of charges that he was a member of the organisation and its military wing – the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

A judge said the offences related to a snapshot in time which was now historic.

But within days the terror organisation’s inner council announced it had thrown out both brothers in a bid to clean up its act.

The purge followed growing resentment at how they were running the UDA’s so-called brigade in north Belfast.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Andre Shoukri had squandered £863,000 (€1.25m) of UDA money in a two-year gambling spree at one Belfast bookmakers.

He is currently remanded in jail on charges of blackmail, intimidation and money laundering.

While in custody, Ihab was widely believed to have controlled the unit – until both were deposed.

As detectives questioned him, a north Belfast political representative praised the police offensive on loyalist paramilitaries.

Alban Maginness, a nationalist SDLP Assembly member, said: “The UDA has caused major problems in this area for many years. Any clampdown by the police on elements within that organisation is to be welcomed.”

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