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Gerry Adams says Thomas 'Slab' Murphy was treated unfairly

Gerry Adams Image copyright PA
Image caption Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams says Thomas Murphy was denied his right to trial by jury

A prominent Irish republican convicted of tax evasion was treated unfairly, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said.

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, the alleged former IRA "chief of staff", was found guilty at the Republic of Ireland's non-jury Special Criminal Court.

Mr Adams said: "All citizens have the right to be judged by a jury of their peers.

"It is extraordinary a case involving a failure to complete tax returns is heard before a non-jury court."

He added: "Tom Murphy's rights have been denied to him."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Thomas 'Slab' Murphy had denied nine tax evasion charges

The three judges were told how Murphy had significant dealings in cattle and land and received farming grants, but failed to submit tax returns for nine years.

The prosecution was brought after an investigation by the Irish Criminal Assets Bureau.

Murphy, 66, who lives at Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, County Louth, on a farm that straddles the border with Northern Ireland, had denied the charges.

He was remanded on continuing bail ahead of sentencing in February.

Mr Adams, who represents North Louth as a TD, or member of the Irish parliament, said in a statement there could be "no equivocation" that "everyone has a duty to pay the taxes for which they are liable".

He said "many prominent public figures accused of tax irregularities, including TDs ... have not been treated in the same fashion as Mr Murphy.

"Neither have they been labelled as criminals by those media outlets currently writing lurid headlines about Mr Murphy."

Mr Adams said he considered Murphy to be a "good republican".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was "unbefitting for the leader of a political party to continue to back a convicted criminal".

"The time has come for Gerry Adams to address the nature of his relationship with Mr Murphy and for Sinn Féin to face up to the issue of paramilitary criminality, across the island," he said.