23 May 2006

Finucane killer freed from jail


**The PFC states that the Finucane family received no advance warning of Barrett's release

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe man convicted of murdering Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has been freed from prison in Northern Ireland.

Ken Barrett was released from Maghaberry Prison in County Antrim today.

In September 2004, he was given a life sentence for the murder of Mr Finucane in his north Belfast home in February 1989.

The murder was carried out by the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters but claims that there was collusion with members of the security forces have resulted in the British Government announcing a public inquiry.

Mr Barrett was released early under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement after applying to the Sentence Review Commission.

The Commission conducted a hearing in Maghaberry Prison earlier this month into his application.

Initially he was held in a prison in England where he had been living.

He was transferred to Maghaberry in February last year and was eligible for early release under the Agreement which allowed anyone convicted of a terrorist crime before its signing in 1989 to qualify for early release.

The murder of Mr Finucane was one of the most controversial in the history of Northern Ireland because of the allegations of security force collusion.

The government is currently searching for a judge to head the public inquiry which it has called into the killing.

Mr Finucane`s family have been highly critical of the terms under which the inquiry will be held.

The Finucanes believe the decision to hold it under the terms of the controversial Inquiries Act will lead to a cover up and enable the Government to control what can be disclosed.

They have urged judges around the world to snub any approach to head the inquiry and have also said the family will have nothing to do with it.

Bloody Sunday Inquiry chief Lord Saville and retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, who recommended the inquiry in the first place to the British and Irish governments, have condemned the Act.

Last Friday, United States politicians called on the Government to hold an independent inquiry into Mr Finucane`s murder.

Members of the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation urging Prime Minister Tony Blair to widen its scope.

Republican congressman Chris Smith, from New Jersey, said the granting of a full public inquiry which was acceptable to the Finucane family could pave the way for republican acceptance of policing reforms in Northern Ireland.

"A key stumbling block to that greater acceptance of the police by the nationalist community has been the lack of resolution of charges of official collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane and others," he argued.

"If the population of Northern Ireland is to fully transfer its trust to the police, it must have confidence that the police and government authorities will be held accountable."

Nationalist SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said the release of Ken Barrett would be difficult for the Finucane family.

The North Belfast Assembly member said it by no means ended the controversy over the murder.

"Whatever Barrett`s role in the murder of Pat Finucane, it remains essential that the full truth behind the murder, the activities of the Forces Research Unit (FRU) and the approval for the FRU in and around government must be made public and acknowledged," he said.

"The failure of Downing Street to honour its commitment to a public independent inquiry must be challenged, exposed and overturned. The family deserve and justice demands nothing less."

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