Unencumbered by the Belfast Agreement, ‘comfort’ letters, or any proposals on legacy issues, German authorities sought and, last year, secured the extradition of a suspect in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996.
James Anthony Oliver Albert Corry, from north Belfast, had been arrested in Killorglin, Co Kerry, in October 2015, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by German authorities.
At the start of his trial today in a court in the city of Osnabrück, Corry admitted his role in the 1996 Provisional IRA mortar attack. Which he had previously denied.
The Irish Times report has some details from the courtroom.
Appearing in court for the first day of his trial at Osnabrück regional court, his defence attorney read a statement confirming Mr Corry’s membership of a PIRA active service unit (ASU).
Mr Corry agreed he was in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, ahead of the attack on the Quebec base on June 28th, 1996 and was responsible for mounting a pre-assembled mortar firing device on the back of a rented Ford Transit pick-up truck.
He drove the truck to a side entrance of the base at 6.15pm and triggered a timer, which detonated at 6.50pm. Two mortars failed to ignite, a third detonated on the other side of the fence near a base petrol station.
“The aim was to make clear to the British military that there was no secure place Rückzugsort on the continent,” said Mr Corry, through his defence attorney Dirk Schoenian. “It is not disputed that the aim was to kill members of the British armed forces. But if the aim was to kill as many (people) as possible, the attack wouldn’t have been planned at 6.15pm but at midday when there was as much movement as possible on the base.”
Lower Saxony state prosecutor Melanie Redlich said the mortar device that exploded contained a 70kg ammonium nitrate-sugar mixture and landed 34 metres from the truck.
“It is only by luck that people were neither injured nor killed . . . although 150 people were in the base at the time,” said Dr Redlich.
And another interesting detail.
Mr Corry and his family have been supported in the trial by Sinn Féin and a representative was in court on Wednesday, whom Mr Corry greeted by raising his fist in salute.
Final points to note from the Irish Times report.
If found guilty he is likely to face between four and five years in prison. The court indicated on Wednesday that one year of that sentence may be commuted due to claims of German procedural delays in acting on information about Mr Corry’s whereabouts supplied by the Irish authorities in 2005.
The court is also considering a request for Mr Corry to serve any sentence in Ireland.
Mr Corry indicated he would not address the court directly, only through his defence attorney. While he would not give any information about other members of the unit behind the 1996 attack, he would give information about the attack as he no longer had any link to the PIRA or felt bound by its oaths of secrecy.
In 2003, former British soldier Michael Dixon was sentenced to six years and six months for his role in the 1996 attack. German prosecutors believe five people in total were involved.