Tuesday 22 August 2017

'My son is innocent,' insists mum of terror cash suspect

Hassan Bal in court yesterday. Sketch: Alwyn Gillespie
Hassan Bal in court yesterday. Sketch: Alwyn Gillespie
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The mother of a man charged with supporting international terrorism in Waterford has said that the events of recent days were "very shocking".

Hassan Bal (25) is charged with acting to support a foreign terrorist organisation, and was remanded in ongoing custody by Waterford District Court after his bail application was rejected.

The court heard that the Garda investigation into the alleged funding of an overseas terrorist organisation involved the FBI, Interpol and London's Metropolitan Police.

Mr Bal appeared before Judge Kevin Staunton on two charges of attempting to provide and providing funds for a foreign terrorist organisation.

The charges were brought contrary to the Criminal Justice - Terrorist Offences Act, 2005.

Judge Staunton was told that Mr Bal was arrested at an address off O'Connell Street in Waterford shortly before 10am last Thursday. He was brought to Waterford Garda Station, where he was later charged.

Det Inspector Anthony Pettit and Det Sergeant Donal Donohue said Mr Bal made no reply when the two charges were formally put to him.

Mr Bal was remanded in custody after his first court appearance last Friday, but solicitor Ken Cunningham yesterday made a bail application on his client's behalf.

Inspector Tony Lonergan confirmed the State was opposing the application under Section 2 of the Bail Act, 1997.

Det Sgt Donohue said the State was objecting to bail given the serious charges involved, the nature of the alleged evidence, the fact the charges carry a maximum sentence on conviction of up to 20 years, that gardaí believed Mr Bal was a flight risk, and the fact he no longer has a permanent address in Ireland. Mr Cunningham told the court that Mr Bal's mother, Dr Caroline Ward-Fahy, a psychologist, was willing to provide independent surety for him.

He said his client was entitled to the presumption of innocence and would comply with all bail terms required.

Dr Ward-Fahy assured the court that all bail conditions required by the Garda would be complied with by her son.

"It is very shocking," she said about the events of recent days.

"He will do that [obey all bail conditions] as a duty to God, because his mother is a very important part of his faith.

"Since my son was born, if I tell him to do anything, he will do it. I am aware that he is innocent.

"My son is obedient to me because of his faith - children who are really good Muslims [obey parental guidance]."

Dr Ward-Fahy, who specialises in the treatment of children with autism, insisted that she would take full responsibility for her son if he was granted bail and confirmed that he would live with her at her Waterford home.

Mr Bal is an Irish citizen but was born in the UK. He has been resident in Ireland for 14 years and has lived in Waterford for 10 years. He holds an Irish passport and his UK-born wife is currently pregnant.

Mr Bal is training to be an electrician in Waterford, but currently has no major source of income.

Judge Staunton said he accepted Dr Ward-Fahy was "very genuine" in her submissions to the court, but he had to take note of the evidence offered by Det Sgt Donohue.

He refused bail and remanded Mr Bal in ongoing custody to appear again before the district court on May 9.

The two charges relate to dates of October 2 and October 23, 2015.

Mr Bal has already been granted free legal aid.

The charges followed a Garda operation which was assisted by Interpol, the FBI and London's Metropolitan Police.

The Garda operation was focused on the collection and distribution of funds which, they feared, could have been intended for radical Islamic groups operating overseas.

Irish Independent

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