Lawyer warned about 'discourtesy' after criticising judge's handling of a bail application in MI5 sting case

Dr Issam Bassalat

A LAWYER acting for a Palestinian doctor charged with assisting terrorism arising from an MI5-sting, been warned against “grandstanding and discourtesy” after criticising a judge’s handling of a bail application.

Although the case against Edinburgh-based Dr Isaam Bassalat was not listed for hearing yesterday, a solicitor highlighted his opposition to District Judge Michael Ranaghan's decision last week to refuse bail.

Dr Bassalat (63) is accused of attending a meeting of the IRA Executive in Co Tyrone as well as meeting the IRA chair and chief of staff.

The co-accused are David Jordan, Sharon Jordan, and Damien Joseph McLaughlin from Dungannon; Kevin Murphy from Coalisland, Amanda McCabe and Shea Reynolds from Lurgan and Patrick McDaid, Joseph Barr and Gary Hayden from Derry.

They face similar offences of IRA membership and directing terrorist activity between 2018 and 2020.

Last month Dungannon Magistrates Court heard how Dr Bassalat had suffered a heart attack at Maghaberry Prison.

He was later taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where a stent was inserted.

There have been multiple unsuccessful attempts for bail since his detention, including a further application last week, where Judge Ranaghan found no change in circumstances.

All cases were listed for general update at the Co Tyrone court yesterday.

However when this concluded, Dr Bassalat’s lawyer Gavin Booth addressed the judge, stating: “You refused a change of circumstances last week. I have reviewed a large amount of material, and there is still nothing that supports the case.

"Dr Bassalat’s treatment has been nothing short of abhorrent in both the court and prison system. He is innocent before the law and remains innocent to this day. Unfortunately this court said there is no change in circumstances.”

The solicitor told Judge Ranaghan, “I understand you have not read all the documents and I’m probably in a better position to advise the court. There does not appear to be a case against Dr Bassalat, a 63-year-old man with no criminal record who has taken a Hippocratic Oath. It’s hard to believe there was no change in circumstances.”

Mr Booth insisted: “The court should be cognisant of my client’s right and the prison have failed to adequately treat him. He had to have emergency surgery. I’m updating the court that the decision was wrong and we will ventilate it further.”

Judge Ranaghan replied: “So effectively you disagree with my decision?”

The defence lawyer replied: “The court should play an active role in looking after Dr Bassalat’s health. You accepted his rights are engaged.”

The judge warned: “Please be a little less discourteous. When saying ‘you’ that should be Your Worship. If you disagree with my decision, you have other remedies. That is the route you should take rather than wasting my time.”

The defence stressed the court is a public body, to which Judge Ranaghan replied, “I’m well aware of that. Do you have anything else of substance before I lose my temper?”

This appeared to amuse the defence but Judge Ranaghan remarked, “Laughing won’t help. I view this as discourtesy to the court.”

While the solicitor insisted this wasn’t his intention, he was told: “It’s coming across very like it.

"All you had to say was we are appealing the decision at High Court and that was the end of it. I’m not here for grandstanding or discourtesy.”

The cases against all 10 defendants will be reviewed again next month.

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