Trial to Begin for Men Accused of Shipping Bomb Parts to IRA
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Thousands of miles from the strife in Northern Ireland, six men face trial on charges of running bomb parts for the Irish Republican Army and trying to buy the IRA a missile and sniper rifles.
The men shipped 2,900 bomb detonators to New York City from Tucson by Greyhound bus in three boxes marked as clothing, prosecutors say. Some detonators wound up in Northern Ireland for use in bombs in 1991 and 1992, they contend.
The men also are charged with plotting to buy weapons, including a Stinger shoulder-fired missile and three or four .50 caliber sniper rifles. Jury selection begins Tuesday.
The defense and prosecution are expected to battle over the scope of the trial and whether the bloody history of Northern Ireland should play a part in it.
U.S. District Judge John Roll said he will not let defendants try to justify IRA terrorism and won’t allow either side a long historical discourse.
″It is not going to be up to the jury here to decide who is right and who is wrong″ in Northern Ireland, he told lawyers Friday.
Daniel Knauss, chief assistant U.S. Attorney, said earlier that his prosecutors would resist attempts by the defense to politicize the case. ″This is just an arms-gathering operation,″ he said.
But defense lawyer A. Bates Butler III, a former U.S. attorney, said he hopes the judge will allow the defense to present details of the Catholic- Protestant struggle in Northern Ireland and of the IRA’s attempts to oust the British from the province.
Butler contends the federal government brought the case in part ″to support our (pro-British) foreign policy objectives.″
″The only way that citizens can decide whether or not those foreign objectives are good or bad is to have an awareness of what the situations are,″ Butler said.
Defense lawyers expect to call Northern Irish human rights activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey to testify about alleged British abuses.
Prosecutors contend that two of the defendants purchased the detonators and shipped them on the bus, and that the other defendants are linked to the weapons purchases through bank records, intercepted phone conversations, FBI surveillance and informants’ testimony.
The defendants are: Irish natives Denis Leyne, 56, of Toronto; Patrick Moley, 30, living near New York; Thomas Maguire, 37, living in New York City; and Gerard A. Brannigan, 33, of New York City.
Also charged: Americans John Lynch, 46, of Sebastian, Fla., and William Kelly, 54, of Fort Pierce, Fla.
In all, 14 people were indicted in the case. One defendant has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and will testify for the government.
Four Irish nationals are still at large, and will face prosecution later with the remaining three defendants, two of whom - Seamus Moley and Kevin McKinley - have already been convicted of trying to buy the Stinger missile for $50,000 from federal undercover agents and have served sentences.
All six men going on trial Tuesday are charged with conspiring to buy the detonators, missile and rifles and to export them secretly to Northern Ireland for IRA use. They’re accused of arranging the purchase of detonators in 1989 through informant Marvin Jameson, who operated a mine in Arizona, from a Tucson-based company. Jameson will testify for the government.
The IRA, rooted in the Roman Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, has waged a military campaign since 1969 to try to end British rule in the predominantly Protestant province. About 3,100 people have died in the struggle.
The Irish and British prime ministers have agreed to try to reach a compromise. The IRA so far has refused a plea for a cease-fire, which would allow its political party, Sinn Fein, to be included in the peace process.