“the first time that the judge could direct that such hearings be heard ‘otherwise than in public”‘”

Although the seven people arrested in Ireland in connection with an alleged plot to kill Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks, had their detention in custody extended earlier this week, RTÉ reports that two of them have now been released from custody. Meanwhile, an American woman, Colleen R. LaRose, whose possible movements in Ireland in September last year are being investigated, has been “indicted in plot to recruit violent jihadist fighters and to commit murder overseas”. The Irish Times notes that the case has seen the first use of “section 29 21 of the 2009 Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act”.

The exclusion of the media from the hearings was the first time a new law allowing for the hearing to be in private was invoked in a high-profile case. An application that the hearing into the prolonging of the detention be heard in private was made by An Garda Síochána and the judge granted this application. It was made under section [29 21] of the 2009 Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act, which provides for the extension of the length of time of detention to allow for further investigation.

This section of the Act, passed amidst controversy last year, provided for the first time that the judge could direct that such hearings be heard “otherwise than in public”. It also provides for the exclusion of all except “officers of the court, persons directly concerned in the proceedings, bona fide representatives of the press and such other persons as the court may permit to remain”. The judge can also direct that particular evidence be given in the absence of “every person, including the person to whom the application relates and any legal representative”, if the judge considers the nature of the evidence could prejudice the investigation.

Is there a clue in an earlier Irish Times report?

Detectives in Ireland have been working on the case since late last year with their counterparts in the US and Europe, including Sweden. Those arrested yesterday are from Algeria, Croatia, Palestine, Libya and the US. They are aged in their mid-20s to late-40s. The Irish Times understands the suspects were taken into custody on the basis of information supplied to the Garda by the FBI that came to light after surveillance of the suspects’ communications, including e-mails.