12 November 2005

OTR deal is ‘disgusting’ says fugitive

Daily Ireland

‘On the run’ man slams agreement of facing special tribunal on return

Zoe Tunney

A Belfast man currently on the run in the South yesterday said he was “disgusted” with the deal struck between Sinn Féin and the British government over his proposed return to the North.
Under the terms of the deal, announced by the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, in Westminster on Wednesday, on-the-runs wanted for offences committed before the Good Friday Agreement will face a two-stage legal process.
If they are granted a certificate allowing them to take part in the scheme, they will be brought before a special tribunal which will have the same powers as a Crown court.
They will, however, be exempt from arrest, questioning and remand in relation to the offences.
There will be no jury sitting at the tribunals.
In the event of a conviction, the person will be eligible to receive a licence guaranteeing that he or she will not be jailed.
The same amnesty applies to members of the security forces wanted for crimes committed on civilians before the Good Friday Agreement.
Stiofán MacGib was 19 when he arrested at his home in west Belfast in 1978 for membership of the IRA and possession of a weapon.
He said he is totally disgusted with the terms of the amnesty.
“I was neither a member of the IRA or in possession of a weapon when I was arrested just before my 20th birthday,” he told Daily Ireland.
“For 27 years, I have had to live in the Free State for something I did not do and now Sinn Féin tells me - through the media - that I have to stand trial in a British court.
“I do not even recognise the state, never mind the court.”
Mr MacGib said he was struck by the legitimacy the deal gives to the British state and court system.
"I now have to put myself at the mercy of a British court and to do so would be to own up to the legitimacy of the British presence in the North," he said.
“It seems like the British are happy to accept the IRA’s disbandment and decommissioning but will still assert their authority.
"How can we, as republicans, say that the British have no legitimate right to be in the North and yet expect people to attend their court?”
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said only cases where there was evidence to support a claim that an on-the-run committed an offence would have to go before a special tribunal.

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