Ulster Herald

Tyrone men furious at being locked up wrongly

by Anton McCabe

TWO Tyrone men are furious that they have served the equivalent of five year prison sentences before being found not guilty.

Kevin Murphy from Coalisland and Don Mullan from Dungannon are angry that they had been remanded for such a long time when the eventual verdict was not guilty.

This according to the men was the only verdict 'given that they had been set up by a security force agent'.

They are angry that Brendan O'Connor from Pomeroy, one of the other two arrested with them, is still in Maghaberry prison, awaiting trial on a bombing charge where the evidence against him is traces of DNA allegedly found on a glove.

The other accused, Sean Dillon, was also released.
The four had been charged with possessing a rocket launcher and conspiracy to murder.

The launcher was found in the field where they were arrested in Coalisland in February 2002: forensic tests found no trace of their having been in contact with it.

The man alleged to have lured them to the field was Gareth O'Connor of Armagh: mobile phone records linked him to phones used by the security forces, but these were not made available to the defence for thirteen months, by which time those records showing the locations of the phones had been destroyed.
'In the new political dispensation, we're still dealing with the same reality, these people were manipulative, they were corrupt' said Keviin Murphy.
'The faceless men were still working behind the scenes'

Police raided his partner's house three times while he was in jail, and Don Mullan's mother's house twice.

'Not one nationalist or Republican politician came out to condemn it' Mr Murphy said.

'Our families were living in isolation from the broader community and we only had a small group of people supporting us which was our family and friends.
'We were alleged dissident Republicans, opposed to the Agreement'.
When the men arrived in Maghaberry prison Republicans and Loyalists were forcibly integrated.

'Your name was enough to get you attacked as there were eight Loyalists on the wing.

'It was not only them, Catholic prisoners would have set you up too'
The two men were on dirty protest for four months last year, until prison authorities moved Republicans and Loyalists into separate wings.
At the time of their release, they were on another protest, refusing to shave or cut their hair.

'We were locked up twenty-two or twenty-three hours per day' said Murphy.
'You could have been strip-searched every day. If you refused to take your clothes off, they sent for the riot squad which consisted of ten or fifteen men in helmets'.

They had to eat in their cells, washing and shaving at the same sinks where they washed their eating utensils.

Of Gareth O'Connor who disappeared last year, after leaving his home to drive to Dundalk, Mr Mullan said 'Gareth O'Connor might be an agent, but he is a victim of the same system that put us in jail, and so was his family.
'There's more Gareth O'Connors out there, and it's the faceless men that send them out that need to be exposed.

'We call on Sinn Féin and the SDLP to expose these show-trials' the men concluded.

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