Northern Ireland

Palestinian doctor claims he was entrapped by MI5 agent

Dr Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, who has been arrested as part of an MI5 sting.
Dr Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, who has been arrested as part of an MI5 sting.

A Palestinian doctor, charged in connection with an MI5 operation against the New IRA, claims he was entrapped by an agent who lured him to a meeting under false pretences.

Issam Hijjawi-Bassalat, who also goes by the name Issam Hijjawi, was remanded into custody yesterday charged with one count of preparatory acts of terrorism in connection with the alleged meeting in Omagh in July.

Dr Bassalat, originally from Palestine, but with an address at Telford Road in Edinburgh, was arrested at Heathrow Airport on Saturday.

He appeared in court by videolink alongside David Jordan, of Cappagh Road in Dungannon, who is accused of directing terrorism, belonging to a proscribed organisation and two counts of preparatory acts of terrorism.

Dr Bassalat's solicitor Gavin Booth told the court his client is a GP who chaired the Palestinian Society in Scotland.

"This is a peaceful and democratic organisation which raises awareness of the Palestinian cause," Mr Booth said.

He also said Dr Bassalat was "pestered" by an MI5 agent who has been named in court as Dennis McFadden into attend meetings in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Originally from the West Bank in Palestine, Dr Bassalat came to the UK in 1995 to work as a GP, and settled in Scotland in 2010.

He is an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights, often speaking at public meetings and protests.

He has previously addressed the Saoradh ard fheis in Newry, the organisation is widely believed to be the political wing of the New IRA.

On that occasion, Dr Bassalat was picked up at the airport by Mr McFadden and taken to the Canal Court hotel. This was believed to be his first meeting with the alleged MI5 agent.

As part of the investigation, the PSNI questioned Dr Bassalat about a meeting with Mr McFadden at a house in Scotland.

It is understood Dr Bassalat claims he was lured to Belfast after he applied to have his daughter's passport renewed so his family could travel to Dubai to get married.

He claims to have received a message from the passport office telling him to pick his daughter's passport up from an office in Belfast despite there being a passport office in Glasgow.

Around this time Mr McFadden contacted the 62-year-old doctor and asked him to attend a public meeting in Belfast to speak about Palestine.

Dr Bassalat, who arrived on July 17 with his four children, claims McFadden was waiting in the port and took him to a house close to Queen's University which McFadden had rented for him.

Two days later, McFadden arrived to take him to the meeting, but instead, Dr Bassalat claims, took him to the house in Co Tyrone where the second New IRA meeting was alleged to have taken place.

His defence then claims he gives a short presentation on the current political situation in Palestine and does not mention, weapons or acts of terrorism.