Northern Ireland news

Palestinian doctor travelled to Lebanon with New IRA suspect

Dr Issam Hijjawi, who is arrested as part of an MI5 sting 

A Palestinian doctor who attended a meeting of alleged members of the New IRA in Omagh was last night charged as part of a police investigation into the activities of the New IRA.

Dr Issam Hijjawi, who is an outspoken activist for Palestinian rights and lives in Edinburgh, is due to appear in court this morning. He is charged with an offence of preparatory acts of terrorism.

Dr Hijjawi is the tenth person to be charged in the PSNI/MI5 investigation 'Operation Arbacia'.

He was arrested at Heathrow on Saturday as he attempted to leave the UK and transported to Belfast to be questioned at Musgrave PSNI station.

The 62-year-old's house in the Blackhall area of Edinburgh was also searched by officers from Police Scotland.

Dr Hijjawi, whose family come from the the occupied West Bank, is the chair of the Association of Palestinian Communities in Scotland.

He attended one of the two meetings which were bugged by MI5, along with a number of leading members of the group Saoradh, who it is also alleged are members of the New IRA.

He also travelled, sometime in 2018 to Lebanon, and its capital Beirut, with leading Tyrone republican Kevin Barry Murphy.

Murphy was one of six people who appeared in court yesterday charged with a number of terrorist related offences, including directing terrorism.

The case centres around an alleged double agent who has since left his home on the outskirts of Belfast.

The man, named in court as Dennis McFadden, booked and paid for houses used in two meetings of what police allege was a gathering of the leadership of the New IRA.

Both houses were bugged with both listening devices and cameras.

Dr Hijjawi, who is represented by Phoenix Law, says he attended the meeting to give an update and political analysis on the current situation in Palestine.

The Belfast based law firm represents seven of the ten people arrested as part of the MI5 sting.

Dr Hijjawi has had a connection with the group for several years and addressed the Saoradh Ard Fheis in Newry last November.

During his talk he spoke of being approached on a number of occasions by MI5, saying: "what they called my Irish connection, ironically admitting the parallel between the Palestinian and Irish causes".

"Comrades, be assured that we are on the right side of history, whether in Palestine or Ireland, the nearly century-long struggle for freedom, self-determination, dignity and social justice will prevail, and the imperialist, colonialist powers sooner or later will be defeated, it’s just a matter of time", he added.

Dr Hijjawi is the only one of the then people arrested who last night remained in police custody.

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