Northern Ireland

Colin Duffy 'targeted in Majorca MI5 sting operation'

Colin Duffy Image copyright PA
Image caption Colin Duffy is accused of directing and belonging to an IRA grouping, and attempting to murder members of the PSNI

High-profile dissident republican Colin Duffy was allegedly targeted in an MI5 sting operation in Majorca, a court has been told.

An agent said he posed as a holidaying Serbian businessman with criminal links in a bid to secretly record discussions about potential arms dealing.

Another operative acted as his girlfriend during the assignment aimed at securing an encounter with Mr Duffy.

A hearing took place to decide if he is to stand trial on terror charges.

Mr Duffy is accused of directing and belonging to an IRA grouping, and attempting to murder members of the PSNI.

He faces further counts of possessing firearms and ammunition, and conspiring with Alex McCrory and Henry Fitzsimons to murder security force members.

The alleged offences are connected to a gun attack on a police convoy in north Belfast.

A PSNI Land Rover and two accompanying vehicles came under fire on the Crumlin Road in December 2013.

Lawyers for Mr Duffy, formerly of Forst Glade in Lurgan; 54-year-old Mr McCrory, from Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast and 47-year-old Mr Fitzsimons, of no fixed address, are challenging the strength of the evidence against them.

They contend that the three accused should not be returned for trial.

Santa Ponsa operation

During preliminary inquiry proceedings at Belfast Magistrates' Court one witness said to have worked for MI5 testified anonymously.

He told of being recruited to take part in an operation in the resort of Santa Ponsa in August 2013.

Along with a woman posing as his girlfriend, and a man who was to play the role of a close associate accompanying him on holiday, they met at briefings before deployment to prepare their false backgrounds or "legends", the court heard.

The assignment, which involved wearing covert recording devices, was to be purely evidence gathering.

"On the first meeting with the security services the proposal was would I participate in an operation playing a businessman with a dodgy background and look like being from a criminal background, to which I said yes," he told the court.

Mr Duffy's legal team have not accepted he ever met the undercover agent.

But during last week's cross-examination, a defence lawyer raised the general issue of an agent provocateur crossing boundaries to instigate or induce others into wrongdoing.

He put it to the witness that his general depiction was to be that of someone from the underworld.

Replying from behind screens, the agent explained that he and his fake girlfriend were to be "a very odd couple, intriguing the whole beach".

He claimed that a heated debate with his associate was staged in view of Mr Duffy.

"During that I realised that Mr Duffy was looking at us, and I think he believed that theatre," he added.

Questioned about the contents of his witness statement, the agent continued: "The arms dealing would eventually (come) during the conversation if engaged in the conversation with Mr Duffy."

There is no suggestion that any weapons deal was ever arranged.

The case continues.

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