Ex-British soldier is jailed over IRA attack on base

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The Independent Online

A former British soldier suspected of joining the IRA was jailed for six and a half years by a German court yesterday for the attempted murder of former comrades at a British Army baseseven years ago.

Michael Dickson, 39, was found guilty of aiding a mortar attack in 1996 on the Royal Engineers' base at Osnabrück in north-west Germany. The attack caused widespread damage but injured no one.

Wolfgang Siolek, the presiding judge at the trial in the town of Celle, said: "It was pure chance that nobody was hurt or killed in the attack. Through his involvement, the accused has made himself guilty of an undetermined number of counts of attempted murder."

Dickson, from Greenock, near Glasgow, was also found guilty of setting off an explosive device at the base, which is the largest Ministry of Defence establishment outside Britain. Dickson had insisted he was innocent and had never been a member of the IRA.

He had served in the British Army for seven years until 1988 and had once been a member of a Royal Engineers unit at the Osnabrück base.

He was suspected of having been a member of the five-strong IRA "active service unit" that shelled the base's Quebec barracks on 28 June 1996 with three home-made mortar shells. Two of the devices failed to go off, but the third exploded near a fuel depot. Dickson confessed to renting a flat and vehicles used in the attack.

His trial began last month. He was arrested in Prague in December last year on cigarette smuggling charges. The Czech courts agreed to extradite him to Germany to stand trial last April.

The judge said he had taken into consideration the fact that his accomplices had already been freed in Ireland as part of the peace process.

Police in Northern Ireland say Dickson is also suspected of involvement in the 1996 bombing of the British Army's Ulster headquarters.

Northumbria police also want to question Dickson, who they say is a suspect in the attempted murder of the former IRA member Martin McGartland, who was shot and wounded at his home in Whitley Bay, Tyneside in 1999. McGartland, who survived the attack, was a police informer.