Friday 26 December 2014

Fury as Omagh suspects closer to avoiding €1.9m claim

Chris Kilpatrick

Published 21/04/2014 | 02:30

The aftermath of the bomb in Omagh, which killed 29 people and unborn twins

FAMILIES of 29 people murdered in the Omagh bombing have reacted with fury to confirmation the two suspects could have an order to pay compensation overturned.

Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell were ordered to pay a share of £1.6m (€1.9m) damages after being found liable for the Real IRA atrocity in a civil case brought by victims' relatives.

Yesterday it emerged the men's case to have the ruling overturned by the European Court of Human Rights had cleared an important legal hurdle.

The 'Sunday Telegraph' reported that last month the court allowed the pair's case to pass through a "filtering" stage, which is designed to weed out ineligible applications.

The British government must give its response before European judges decide whether the case should go to a full hearing.

One of the those killed in the bomb was pregnant with twins at the time.

Nobody has ever been convicted in a criminal court in relation to the attack.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden died in the blast, said the move was a "psychological blow for victims".

"The human rights laws to me would need to be looked at it again. It has always favoured the killer gangs and organisations and never the victims. It's always weighted on the side of the perpetrator and this news is extremely disappointing," he said.

"We are still working under human rights law formed many years ago to deal with the Nazis in Germany post-Second World War and what seems to be happening since the 1970s is terrorism is the new Nazism and there has been no effective human rights legislation focused on the victims."

Stanley McComb, whose wife Ann was killed in the blast, said McKevitt and Campbell would go to any length and it was "all just a cynical exercise for them".

"What is wrong with the judicial system that is allowing this to happen?" he asked.

"And this is all a money making exercise for the legal profession too. Britain paid all their legal aid for their defence against the civil action which was outrageous, totally, totally outrageous."

In 2009, McKevitt, Campbell and two other men were ordered to pay the damages. It was the first time terror suspects had been sued in this way.

They appealed to the Court of Appeal in 2011, an application which was rejected. A bid to go to the Supreme Court also failed. A retrial in March last year of the civil case against Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly delivered the same outcome as the earlier hearing.

McKevitt (64) is currently serving a 20-year jail term after being convicted of IRA membership and directing terrorism by a Dublin court in 2003.

Campbell (52) was jailed by the same court for eight years in 2004 for IRA membership.

Their lawyers claim their rights were breached under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to a fair trial.

Their case relies on the use of hearsay evidence against them from David Rupert, an FBI agent who infiltrated dissident republican groups following the Omagh atrocity.

Irish Independent

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