IRA gun-smuggler jailed by US court

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The Independent Online

The leader of a smuggling ring that shipped weapons to Ireland was yesterday sentenced to four years and eight months by a judge in Fort Lauderdale who said the crime deserved the death penalty.

The leader of a smuggling ring that shipped weapons to Ireland was yesterday sentenced to four years and eight months by a judge in Fort Lauderdale who said the crime deserved the death penalty.

While sentencing Conor Claxton, Judge Wilkie Ferguson criticised guidelines approved by the US Congress, saying they made it impossible for him to impose a longer sentence. Under the guidelines Claxton could only have been sentenced to a maximum of five years and three months.

He stood stoically as he was sentenced but earlier asked Judge Ferguson to be lenient on his co-defendants, Martin Mullan and Anthony Smyth.

Claxton, 28, Mullan, 30, and Smyth, 43, were convicted in June of shipping weapons to Ireland and related crimes but were acquitted of the most serious charges - shipping weapons to terrorists and conspiracy to maim or murder persons in a foreign country. Those charges could have resulted in a life sentence.

The three were accused of buying guns and ammunition in Florida and mailing them to the IRA. Claxton, an admitted IRA member, was convicted on 39 counts, including using a false passport to facilitate terrorism, weapons smuggling and conspiracy.

Smyth, a car salesman, was convicted on 31 counts, including weapons smuggling, the unlawful sale of firearms and making false statements to a firearms dealer. Mullan, a Philadelphia handyman, was convicted on 10 counts, including weapons smuggling and possession of a weapon by an illegal alien.

The three mailed the guns to Ireland in computers, toy fire-engines and other containers before their July 1999 arrests. The weapons were intercepted in New York and Ireland. Prosecutors said the weapons were intended for the IRA, but the jury rejected the charge.

Smyth's girlfriend, Siobhan Browne, was sentenced last month to 20 months for buying 20 of the guns.

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