Finucane killer released after less than three years of life sentence

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The Independent Online

A loyalist figure convicted of one of Belfast's most notorious killings has been released from jail after serving less than three years of a life sentence.

Ken Barrett, once a member of the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association, had pleaded guilty to the murder of Pat Finucane in 1989. The killing has long generated concern in legal and political circles, with indications emerging of involvement by security agencies, in particular military intelligence.

A legal inquiry has been announced into the affair, though critics complain that under new legislation its powers will be limited and much of its proceedings will be held in secret.

Barrett is expected to be spirited away to begin a life under a new identity, since he is considered to be under threat from his former associates. His release is in line with arrangements for the freeing of prisoners laid down in the Good Friday Agreement, which has meant that virtually all loyalist and republican prisoners have been allowed out.

Members of the Finucane family, who continue to campaign for a far-reaching inquiry into the case, raised no objection yesterday to the release. But they continue to say the projected investigation is "a sham".

Barrett's release was opposed by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, but was approved by the Sentence Review Commission , which apparently concluded that he posed no further public danger.