Witnesses refuse to testify in Loyalist trial

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Four men called to give evidence for the prosecution in a case involving murder and other offences by a Loyalist group yesterday refused to answer questions in court.

They were held in contempt of court by a Belfast judge who told them he would deal with them in a few weeks' time.

The case is against 14 men who face a range of charges arising from the activities of the Ulster Volunteer Force. One of the four had given statements to police about a paramilitary beating.

The bulk of the evidence so far has been given by a "supergrass", former UVF member Robert Stewart, who testified they had been involved in a murder and other crimes.

During days of cross-examination Stewart confirmed he had been given a light sentence in exchange for his testimony. He agreed he had been an alcoholic and had used drugs. He admitted having sex with underage girls, agreeing with defence suggestions that he was "a right nasty piece of work".