US court asks for IRA papers

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THE Government has been asked to produce in a US court some of the most sensitive documents relating to the conduct of the security forces in Northern Ireland over the last two decades, writes Phil Reeves.

Lawyers for James Smyth, a republican who escaped from the Maze prison 10 years ago, have asked for access to internal government papers on subjects including the Kincora boys home scandal, allegations that the RUC had a 'shoot-to-kill' strategy, and collaboration between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

The British Government is seeking to extradite Smyth, who was convicted of attempting to murder a prison official. In an unusual move, a US district judge has ordered that all 'available' documents be produced by prosecutors in eight days' time.

Karen Snell, the public defender representing Smyth, said that if the Government refuses the request and fails to persuade the judge that it has a right to withhold the papers, the extradition case could founder.