Bail granted in dissident case

Three Belfast men charged in connection with the alleged false imprisonment of a dissident republican have been released on bail.

Gerard McCrory, 32, of Dermot Hill Road, Harry Fitzsimmons, 35, of St James Gardens and Thomas Tolan, 32, of Ballymurphy Parade were each granted bail totalling £9,000 in the High Court on Friday.

A fourth co-accused Liam Rainey, 30, of New Barnsley Crescent was granted High Court bail on Wednesday.

All four are accused of beating and unlawfully imprisoning Bobby Tohill on the 20 February.

They are also accused of having items, including metal cudgels, pepper spray, disposable clothing and a van in circumstances likely to be of use to terrorists.

They were charged after a van was rammed and stopped by police near Belfast city centre. The police discovered Mr Tohill in the back of the van.

The incident caused a political row after Chief Constable Hugh Orde insisted it had been a planned IRA operation.

However, charges of IRA membership against the accused were subsequently dropped.

'Evidence evaporating'

On Friday, Lord Justice Nicholson said he was granting bail until the preliminary enquiry into the case on 22 September.

He said the magistrate who heard the case then would see the main evidence against the four, which was CCTV footage, and it would be" a matter for him" as to whether to grant bail then.

Lord Justice Nicholson added that this was a "notorious case" in which no witnesses in the bar from which the injured party was allegedly abducted had come forward and Mr Tohill himself said the four accused did not assault him.

He said the court could only deal with the cases in the way in which they were presented and he saw no reason not to grant bail.

The judge added that the Crown would have to "face the reality that the chances of any conviction on the basis of the evidence was evaporating".

The four applicants were instructed to report to police three times a week, to have no contact with Mr Tohill or their co-accused and to obey a curfew.

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