03 December 2005

US citizen arrest warning

Daily Ireland

BY Ciarán Barnes

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An American citizen who the PSNI want to question about the Castlereagh break-in has lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman.
Larry Zaitschek, who left the North for his native New York five days after the high-profile burglary, has been warned that he faces arrest if he returns.
The 36-year-old worked as a chef at the PSNI’s Castlereagh holding centre in Belfast at the time of the break-in when dozens of highly sensitive Special Branch files were allegedly stolen.
The PSNI believe Mr Zaitschek facilitated the burglary that occurred on March 17, 2002, and which senior officers have blamed on the IRA.
Sinn Féin has rejected these claims, insisting the break-in was the work of elements within the security services determined to derail the peace process. Despite publicly announcing that the American is a prime suspect, the PSNI has yet to provide the prosecution service with enough evidence to request his extradition.
Mr Zaitschek has a young son living in the North, but fear of arrest is preventing him seeing him. In light of this the New Yorker has lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman though respected human rights organisation British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW).
BIRW director Jane Winter said: “We have sent a complaint to the Police Ombudsman on behalf of Laurence Zaitschek about the PSNI’s failure, more than three years after the mysterious “break-in” at Castlereagh, to provide the Director of Public Prosecutions with enough evidence to decide whether or not Laurence Zaitschek should face extradition.
“Laurence Zaitschek maintains that he is wholly innocent, but the fear of arrest should he return is preventing him from having access to his small son.”
Sinn Féin policing and justice spokesman, Gerry Kelly, said the Castlereagh break-in fits into a litany of recent cases: “It starts with a high profile raid, continues with a Special Branch briefing to selected journalists, and ultimately ends in a legal cul-de-sac with those targeted in the original raid spending years trying to unravel the mess created,” said the North Belfast assembyman.

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