Israel releases Irishman after Real IRA mix-up

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The Independent Online

An Irishman held in Israel on suspicion of helping to train Palestinians in bomb-making techniques was due to be put on a plane to London last night.

Sean O'Muireagain, 40, from west Belfast, was arrested near Ramallah on Saturday on suspicion of being a bomb expert helping terrorist groups on the West Bank. But on Tuesday, the Israeli authorities said the Irish language activist had been a victim of mistaken identity. Israeli sources said Mr O'Muireagain, who is still in custody, was being deported, but not for terrorist reasons.

Sinn Fein's former health minister, Bairbre de Brun, said the west Belfast man should not have been arrested. "Serious questions remain to be answered about the role of British intelligence agencies in the initial arrest and elements of the media in the coverage of this." Mr O'Muireagain, who is known at home as "John Boy Morgan", was apparently mistaken for a South Armagh man called John Morgan, who is known to British and Irish security services. Israeli security sources were reportedly blaming British intelligence for the tip-off.

Mr O'Muireagain, a member of the Ireland-Palestinian Solidarity Committee, had been in the Middle East for three weeks on a cultural exchange visit. He had also been working as a correspondent for the west Belfast-based Irish Language newspaper La, and had submitted an article on conditions in the Palestinian town of Jenin.

He was also hoping to forge links with a Palestinian primary school because he is chairman of a board of Irish school governors.