Omagh bomb suspect must face trial

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The Omagh bomb suspect Sean Hoey was committed for trial today on a catalogue of charges related to the horrific attack in which 29 people were killed.

Hoey, 36, was told by Belfast magistrate Desmond Perry, who heard Crown evidence during a three-day committal, that he considered there was a case to answer.

The electrician from Molly Road, Jonesborough, on the South Armagh border, was remanded in custody to appear before Belfast Crown Court. The date still has to be set.

Hoey faces a total of 58 charges relating to the Omagh bombing and a range of other attacks carried out by the real IRA in 1998. Three charges relating to a Belfast bombing were dismissed.

Ordering that Hoey should stand trial, the magistrate said: "The Crown invited me to look at the cumulative effect of the huge quantity of evidence that the defendant was the man who manufactured these 14 devices, the most devastating of which decimated the centre of Omagh and resulted in the tragic deaths of 29 innocent people."

After rejecting defence efforts to have each charge looked at independently and what he dismissed as "a fatuous argument", Mr Perry said: "I am satisfied there is a case to answer."

Hoey stood expressionless in the dock and shook his head mouthing the word "no" when asked if he had anything to say.

Hoey's solicitor, Peter Corrigan, said he was very disappointed at the decision to commit his client for trial.

"I don't think it was the right decision," he said.

Mr Corrigan said all along the evidence against Hoey was that he "may or possibly" have constructed bombs.

"That is not enough to send a man to trial in one of the biggest cases in Irish or British history."

He said the defence feared another Guildford 4 or Birmingham 6 scenario and a miscarriage of justice.

He said that since the police ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, had issued a " scathing" report criticising the initial police investigation, officers had been under tremendous pressure to "try and construct a case around someone".

Mr Corrigan added: "I would ask anyone interested in justice to look at this case dispassionately before it is too late - don't let it become another Guildford 4."