Loyalist is first to be accused of directing terror

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A LEADING west Belfast loyalist figure yesterday became the first person in Northern Ireland to face a charge of directing acts of terror for a paramilitary organisation.

John Adair, 30, from the Shankill Road district, was charged with directing acts of terror for the banned Ulster Freedom Fighters. A number of people in the public gallery shouted 'bastards - it's a joke' when he appeared in court.

The UFF is a sobriquet used by the illegal Ulster Defence Association, the largest loyalist paramilitary organisation. Mr Adair was one of about 20 men picked up by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in a series of arrests around Belfast on Monday.

A large-scale security operation was put into effect as he appeared in court, with about two dozen police officers, together with prison warders, standing guard inside Belfast magistrates' court. It is the first time the RUC has charged anyone with the offence of directing terrorism, which has been on the statute book for some time.

Mr Adair, of Hazelfield Street, Belfast, was also charged with UFF membership. A group of men cheered as he was led to the cells at the end of a 10-minute appearance during which he was remanded in custody until 3 June.

Under cross-examination by a defence solicitor, an RUC officer confirmed that Mr Adair had made no written or verbal admissions to the charges. He said the evidence against him involved tape-recorded conversations with police officers, comments he made to police on the street, documentary evidence, and certain admissions made during previous periods in detention. There was also circumstantial evidence, he said.

The defence solicitor said the prosecution case was 'cobbled together' based on speculation, innuendo and hearsay, with little or no concrete evidence. He felt the evidence was 'very flimsy', and he would be applying for bail.

The Ulster Unionist party leader James Molyneaux yesterday called on both loyalist and republican paramilitary groups to lay down their arms and bring about an immediate halt to all violence.

Mr Molyneaux said the Downing Street declaration had made it clear that any group could enter the political arena if it gave up violence. He said it was good that there should be no exclusion of any group which eschewed violence.

Loyalist organisations have been responsible for 17 of this year's 30 killings.

Meanwhile, the IRA and Sinn Fein were warned by the Government yesterday not to play for time over the 20 answers in the British response to its questions about the Downing Street declaration.