Fitzsimmons remanded in custody in Dublin on European Arrest Warrant

An iol report notes that Harry Fitzsimmons, aged 40, has been remanded in custody in the High Court in Dublin today after being arrested in Dundalk, Co Louth earlier this month on foot of an European Arrest Warrant [EAW]. Fitzsimmons was one of four men who went on the run in May 2006 after pleading guilty to attempting to kidnap dissenting republican Bobby Tohill on 20th February 2004. Two further charges against the men – of false imprisonment and unlawful wounding – remained on the books of the court. Two of the four men were re-arrested and sentenced in February 2007 – Gerard McCrory received seven years in prison and Thomas Tolan was given a six-and-a-half-year term. The fourth, Liam Rainey, from New Barnsley Crescent, Belfast, is still on the run. From the iol report

It is claimed in the EAW that in February 2004 the PSNI, acting on an anonymous phone call, were given information that Mr Tohill, after a meeting with a journalist was dragged by a number of men with batons from Kelly’s Cellar Bar in Belfast. Mr Tohill was placed in the back of a small blue coloured van. Using CCTV the PSNI tracked the van to Belfast city centre. A PSNI car, in an attempt to intercept the van, collided with the vehicle. Mr Tohill was found by officers in the back of the van. He had been badly beaten and was bleeding profusely.

The EAW states that four men also found in the van, who were wearing forensic suits and disposable surgical gloves, were arrested. They were Mr Fitzsimmons along with three others from Belfast: Liam Rainey, Thomas Tolan and Gerard McCrory. The van was also fitted with false license plates. It is claimed in the EAW that Mr Tohill, who declined to make a statement, did tell the PSNI that the men had told him that he was to be “fed to the pigs in South Armagh.”

And a reminder of what the 1st IMC report had to say in April 2004

5.2 The facts of the incident can be stated very briefly. At about 17.45 on 20 February 2004 four masked men entered a bar called Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Street, Belfast. They were all dressed in white forensic suits , balaclavas and surgical gloves. The four men very severely beat Robert Tohill who was in the bar. They then dragged him from the bar to the vehicle in which they had arrived and had parked nearby. They forced him into the vehicle and the five left in it, one of their number driving.

5.3 A member of the public who had seen the incident had meanwhile telephoned the police, and there happened to be a PSNI patrol vehicle in the vicinity. The two officers in this vehicle intercepted the vehicle containing Robert Tohill and arrested four men. The names of those arrested are Harry Fitzsimmons, Gerard McCrory, Liam Rainey and Thomas Tolan.

5.4 The four arrested men were subsequently remanded in custody on charges of causing grievous bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment and the possession of items likely to be of use to terrorists. Charges of membership of a proscribed organisation were withdrawn at first remand.

5.5 The cases of the arrested people are sub judice. In no circumstances should they be prejudiced. Article 13 of the International Agreement specifically requires the Commission to do nothing which would either prejudice a legal case or place anybody’s safety at risk. We are therefore heavily constrained in what we may say. We can however, address two key questions: was this incident the work of a paramilitary organisation and if it was, which one?

5.6 We have received information from a number of official and unofficial sources. We have carefully reviewed all of this material. We are conscious that we are not bound by the strict rules of evidence and that the material has not been subject to the testing one could expect in a criminal trial. We do however believe this material, taken as a whole, indicates that the operation was one planned and undertaken by the Provisional IRA.