Press officer accused over pictures of police officers
SUPPORTERS of Eirigi press officer Stephen Murney clapped in court on Monday as he was acquitted of a series of terrorism charges.
The 30-year-old was prosecuted after posting photographs of police officers on duty on his Facebook page. He faced seven counts of publishing, collecting and possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists between August 2011 and July 2012. During a non-jury trial held at Belfast Crown Court, the prosecution said the photographs were found on a computor, together with two videos on an iPhone, during a police search of his home. Mr Murney, of Derrybeg Terrace in Newry, took pictures on his phone of officers policing a protest in in support of republican prisoners as the Olympic torch passed through the city in June of last year. He was part of the protest, which was organised by republican group eirigi, and later published the images on his Facebook page. He also posted photographes of himself being stopped and searched (harrassed) and recorded the policing of a July 12 parade in Newry, which showed the faces of officers present. The trial heard that when his home was searched in November 2012, photographs of the police on duty in Newry and Belfast were found, along with a minute-long video of an operation on the A1 where a bus believed to be carrying explosives was stopped and searched. Mr Murney said the bus had children on board and he was asked by parents if eirigi could be of assistance. He denied the photographs and videos were for terrorist purposes, stating he had them to report what was going on in his role as press officer. When asked about the images of him being stopped and searched (harassed), Mr Murney said he was recording the incidents to show the Committe on the Administration of Justice as he believed he was being harassed by the PSNI/RUC. He told the court eirigi was a responsible political party whose members sign a declaration that they would not support violence. Although Judge Corrinne Philpott previously dismissed a defence application that Mr Murney had no case to answer, she ruled on Monday that the case had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. “There is no evidence before this court that eirigi supports violence, or has argued for violent action to be taken against the police or that the organisation is directly linked to those that support terrorist activity,” she said. “The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused possessed information likely to be of use to terrorists and that he had no reasonable excuse for his actions. “In the view of this court, the prosecution have not discharged that burden to the requisite standard, that is beyond reasonable doubt, and therefore the accused is entitled to an acquittal on all counts.”
Activist says he was interned by remand
‘If you disagree with the status quo and the way things are this is what they will do, especially if you are politically active – Stephen Murney.
STEPHEN Murney on Monday night stressed he had been “interned on remand” for 14 months.
The 30-year-old also said the decision by Judge Corrinne Philpott to clear him of all charges vindicated his role as a press officer for republican party eirigi, which he will now return to. Mr Murney spent more than a year in Maghaberry after he was arrested at his Newry home in November 2012. Although initially granted bail, he said he believed strict conditions – which included having to live outside Newry and wear a electronic tag – were impossible to fulfil. He was eventually released on bail when his trial ended last month. “It’s more or less what we have been saying the whole time, we never did anything wrong,” he said. “It’s 14 months I will never get back.” He stated the criminal justice system is “interning people just to remove them from the streets”. “There are plenty more lads in there (Maghaberry) who are being treated the same way. It’s just internment by remand and thats based on your political beliefs. “If you disagree with the status quo and the way things are this is what they will do, especially if you are politically active.” The Newry man, who was the focus of a campaign to highlight his case, said he was “forcibly strip-searched between 20 and 30 thimes” during his time in Maghaberry. He said he believes charges were brought because he publicised “PSNI personnel abusing the human and civil rights of citizens in the Newry area” such as carrying out numerous stop-and-search operations against him. Accusing “Stormont parties” of being silent on his case, he said: “Everybody who believes in human rights and civil liberties should speak out against internment.” His solicitor Darragh Mackin said the right decision was reached by the court. “It’s hard to think of no greater abuse of state powers than to remand a political actvist for simply carrying out his duty as a public relations officer of a political party as it was described today. “This is a judgement for the freedom of political expression.” Eirigi general secretary Breandan MacCionnaith also claimed Mr Murney’s “arrest and imprisonent was a blatant but crude attempt at political censorship and open suppression of legitimately held political opinions”.
With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News.