Eirigi and RNU demand release of Newry republican Stephen Murney
Detectives from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch investigating what they described as ‘dissident republican terrorist activity’ in the Newry area have charged 29 year old Eirigi Newry spokesman Stephen Murney with the collection and distribution of information likely to be of use to terrorists.
Murney appeared at Newry Magistrates court on Saturday 1st December where he was also charged with possession of articles likely to be of use to terrorists.
A PSNI detective told Newry Court that Murney was spotted by police at a republican protest during the Olympic torch visit to Newry in June 2012 and Murney allegedly took photographs of police officers on his mobile phone which later appeared on his personal Facebook page.
The detective then went on to explain to the court that after an initial search of Murney’s house, police discovered two BB guns, two black berets, three military-style jumpers and three pairs of combat trousers.
He also revealed that Public Relations Officer Murney had a laptop which contained hundreds of photographs of police officers.
In Murney’s defence, a lawyer said the images dated back years and did not contain any photographs of current serving PSNI officers. In addition, the defense lawyer also insisted that the photographs were taken because of claims of PSNI harassment by Murney.
In reply to clothing seized by police, the defence lawyer said the clothes were band uniforms from ‘years ago’. Refusing bail, the judge remanded the Derrybeg man in custody until 12th December, citing that there was a risk he would interfere with the police investigation.
Eirigi general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith spoke to Newry Times and said ‘political repression’ was behind the charging of Murney and insisted it was a ‘blatant but crude attempt at political censorship and the open suppression of legitimately-held political opinions’.
“As a member of éirígí, Stephen Murney has documented and recorded numerous instances of stop and searches, house raids, along with many other examples of heavy-handed operations conducted by the PSNI in the Newry.
“As the local spokesperson for the party in the Newry area, Stephen has regularly highlighted these issues through statements carried in local newspapers, articles to the party website and via social media outlets.”
Mac Cionnaith continued, “Two of the charges against him directly relate to these activities – the same type of activities which the British government promotes and encourages dissenting communities in certain other states to engage in. The third charge also is directly related to Stephen’s work as a party member.
“His solicitor has been informed that among the items which the PSNI claim may be “likely to be of use to terrorists” are éirígí posters, leaflets and literature of which many thousands of copies have been distributed throughout communities across the north, along with stencils which party members make use of.”
“These spurious charges that have been laid against Stephen Murney are charges which could be pressed against any political activist, any human rights activist, or any photo-journalist in the Six Counties.
“These charges are a blatant but crude attempt at political censorship and the open suppression of legitimately-held political opinions. In that regard they are akin to the type of charges brought by RUC against political activists and others under the old Special Powers Act between 1922 and 1972.
“Other items which the PSNI are using to justify these charges include uniforms belonging to a band of which Stephen was a member quite a number of years ago and an item belonging to his son,” Mac Cionnaith explained.
“It is a fact that the PSNI have subjected Stephen to intense harassment as a result of his exposés of their activities along with those of the secretive MI5 in Newry. One well-known human rights organisation has previously documented this PSNI campaign against Stephen.
“We believe that the PSNI have chosen to bring these charges against Stephen as a test-case, which if successful, will open the flood-gates for similar charges to be pressed against hundreds of people right across the Six Counties. The wider implications of these charges are immense.
“Stephen has stated that he will strenuously oppose these charges. His legal representatives are ready to vigorously challenge these charges, even should that mean taking this case to Europe, if necessary, as the charges are clearly premised on breaching the European Convention on Human Rights.
He added, “As a party, we will take every step we can to assist Stephen, including raising his case with trade unions, human rights and civil liberties organisations, political parties both in Ireland and internationally.”
“The PSNI, supported by the British government and the puppet administration at Stormont, may think that they have cleverly chosen the battle-ground. I can assure them that it is one from which this party and our members will not cede one inch of ground.”
The Republican Network for Unity (RNU) in South Down also called for the immediate release of the Newry republican and called for a collective Republican opposition to political policing in the Newry area.
A spokesman stated, “Eirigi spokesman Stephen was arrested last Thursday morning and was in court on Saturday morning on what can only be described as ridiculously trumped up charges relating to the possession of information likely to be of use to terrorism.
“This ‘information’ was a visual record, in the form of photographs, of a long and aggressive campaign against him and other republicans in the area. He was further charged with possession of items likely to be of use to terrorists, namely a child’s toy handgun and 3 band uniforms.
The spokesman added, “RNU urge all republicans, socialists and progressive elements to campaign for Stephens release, the charges against him amount to a criminalization of any political opposition to policing under the new Stormont structures.”