Alleged Top N Ireland Dissident Faces Weapons Charges

24 June 2006
Dow Jones International News

A man identified by police as the deputy commander of an Irish Republican Army dissident group was arraigned Saturday on charges of trying to smuggle weapons, including surface-to-air missiles and plastic explosives, into Northern Ireland.

Paul McCaugherty, 39, was flanked by two police officers as he appeared in Craigavon Magistrates Court, where he was ordered held without bail until his next court appearance on July 20.

He was the fourth person to be charged following Monday's police raids and arrests targeting an alleged arms-smuggling plot by the Real IRA. The dissident group opposes the Northern Ireland peace process and the 1997 cease-fire being observed by most IRA members.

McCaugherty offered no plea and didn't speak during the hearing, but offered a thumbs-up sign to relatives and friends in the courtroom's public gallery.

The formal charges he faces include conspiring to murder members of the U.K. army and Northern Ireland police; conspiring to possess Kalashnikov assault rifles, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, pistols, silencers and assorted ammunition; and conspiring to possess surface-to-air missiles, 100 kilograms of plastic explosives, vehicle booby-trap devices, rocket-propelled grenades, grenade launchers, detonators, detonator cords and armor-piercing weapons.

He is also charged with receiving $58,000 and deeds to a property in Portugal for terrorist purposes, and offering that cash and property to another person involved in the alleged arms-smuggling plot.

Monday's raids involved more than 200 officers who searched eight properties in two Northern Ireland counties bordering the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland police also helped French police to search an unidentified property in France. Police haven't said whether they found any weapons or other evidence of weapons smuggling at any of the properties.

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