Jailing Ian Paisley Jnr for not complying with the Billy Wright Inquiry would be “devastating for justice”, the Northern Ireland Assembly member has claimed.
The North Antrim Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) is expected to appear at Belfast High Court this morning after being issued with a summons at Stormont.
A solicitor handed the Democratic Unionist Party politicians “notice of motion to punish for contempt” yesterday over his failure to name a prison officer whom he said claims that documents on the LVF leader’s killing in December 1997 had been destroyed.
Despite the threat of imprisonment or a fine that could render him bankrupt, Mr Paisley is adamant he will not name the officer.
“I can't give the name of my sources, it would not be the credible thing to do, it would not be the honest thing to do, it would not be the just thing to do,” he said.
“I can't hand over this name, I won't hand over this name, I will take this name to my grave because that's the commitment I gave to my source when the source came to me.”
Mr Paisley said the courts understood the dilemma he was in.
“If the courts think it is the sensible and credible thing for them to do, to put a public representative in jail for the first time on the issue of contempt like this, the public would see that as completely and totally over-reacting.
“It is devastating for justice that a public representative doing the right thing be put in jail because of the Billy Wright tribunal.”
He added: “I think that would make a laughing stock of the tribunal.”
Wright was shot in a prison van as he went to meet a visitor at the high-security Maze prison.
Three inmates from republican splinter group the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) were found to be responsible.
A public inquiry considering the circumstances surrounding the death wants to probe the allegation that documents were destroyed.
The Wright Inquiry, led by Lord MacLean, was announced in November 2004 following claims of security force collusion.
It is investigating how the killers were able to successfully target their victim, including smuggling in arms, and why a prison officer was “stood down” from his post in the watchtower overlooking the wings on the morning of 27 December.
Wright, 37, founded the LVF in 1996. He is suspected of involvement in the murders of several Catholics in the Portadown and Lurgan area of Co Armagh between the mid-1980s and his death in December 1997.