French Real IRA probe suspects freed

16th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 8 (AFP) - A French anti-terrorist judge Saturday gave bail to three Bretons held in an investigation into the dissident Northern Ireland paramilitary group, the Real IRA, their lawyers said.

PARIS, Nov 8 (AFP) - A French anti-terrorist judge Saturday gave bail to three Bretons held in an investigation into the dissident Northern Ireland paramilitary group, the Real IRA, their lawyers said.

Jean-Pierre Ellien, 60, Bernard Le Gac, 57 and 20-year-old Pierre-Yves Perennes are being investigated for "conspiracy in connection with a terrorist organisation."

Judge Gilbert Thiel turned down the prosecution's request that Ellien and Le Gac - who faced his charges in hospital after he was taken ill - remain in custody, lawyers Vincent Omez and Ronan Appere said.

They said the judge's decision amounted to a repudiation of the charges against their clients.

Bail conditions ban the trio from travelling abroad or making contact with each other.

Ellien and Le Gac returned to Brittany where they were given a warm and emotional welcome by about 200 sympathisers in the north Breton town of Guingamp. Perennes was expected to return later.

Six people were arrested in anti-terrorist police force (DNAT) raids Tuesday following the discovery of a small arms cache in neighbouring Normandy. Three were later freed.

Two Irishmen who travelled twice to France in recent weeks were also detained in the Dublin area and have been charged with membership of the Real IRA.

At a news conference in the western Breton port of Brest Omez and Appere
said that the freeing of their clients amounted to a "total repudiation of the prosecution."

"When you detain people for four days and at the end of this detention people come out free ... it's a repudiation," Appere said.

"The case isn't solid, the charges don't have any basis," said Omez,
pointing out that his client Ellien, a municipal councillor and organiser of an annual music festival attended by many Irish visitors, had never had contact with the two Irishmen arrested in the Dublin area.

He had had "no contact with anyone who could justify the array of accusations the prosecution has put forward in the press recently," Omez said.

The lawyers said the relationships between their clients and the Irishmen were no more than part of the "traditional" socio-cultural links between Brittany and Ireland.

Perennes, according to his lawyer Maurice Briand, made a visit to the Irish town of Dundalk in August as part of a school trip.

He fell into the hands of a "bad family" who gave him mail to deliver to Le
Gac on his return from Ireland, Briand said. "He didn't open the mail. He was used by adults."

Local people have expressed their shock at the arrests because the detainees had no history of support for Brittany's small armed separatist movement. Many said their contact with the alleged members of the Real IRA must have been innocent.

Nightly rallies in support of the three men drew up to 800 demonstrators.
The Real IRA is a dissident republican group which broke with the
mainstream Irish Republican Army (IRA) because of its role in the Northern
Ireland peace process, and has not given up the armed struggle.

© AFP


Subject: French news

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