Northern Ireland news

Suspected agent Dennis McFadden 'badgered' Palestinian doctor to meet senior 'IRA' figures

Dr Issam Bassalat

SUSPECTED state agent Dennis McFadden "badgered" a Palestinian doctor, who is facing charges linked to an MI5-sting, to meet senior 'IRA' figures, a court heard yesterday.

The details emerged during the latest bail hearing for Dr Issam Bassalat which is on hold after the accused suffered a heart attack behind bars last week.

Dr Bassalat is one of 10 people charged with a series of offences arising from the surveillance operation connected to Operation Arbacia.

A bail application for Edinburgh-based doctor has been adjourned for expert medical reports.

Dr Bassalat is charged with preparation of terrorist acts. Nine others face charges including directing terrorism between 2018 and 2020. All deny the allegations.

Covert recordings allegedly captured discussions on the IRA executive, recruitment, weaponry, an economic bombing campaign, close-quarter shootings of police officers and cyber-attacks.

A prosecution lawyer said that Dr Bassalat admits "addressing a meeting attended by the self-professed IRA chair and chief of staff.”

A defence lawyer told the court that in 2016 Dennis McFadden, who has since disappeared, "contacted him on prisoner issues”

He claimed McFadden drove the doctor to the meeting where they discussed parallels between the Palestine and Irish political situations.

“After 20 years unblemished NHS service a state agent destroyed his life," the lawyer claimed.

There have been multiple applications for bail, all of which have been unsuccessful.

At the latest hearing at Dungannon Magistrates Court medical evidence was submitted showing Bassalat had stents inserted following his heart attack.

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.

While the defence accepted Dr Bassalat made no comment during police interview, a lawyer said he "gave a prepared statement detailing his involvement in Irish affairs through his work for Gaza."

"In 2016 an alleged state informer contacted him. Nobody has denied that Denis McFadden is an informer. My client was working for justice and human rights when McFadden contacted him on prisoner issues."

He said Bassalat was driven to a meeting "where he spoke of parallels between Palestine and Ireland, a legitimate, political aspiration and quite right in a democratic society."

The lawyer also claimed that £8,000 found in his client’s home, suggested "the modus operandi (was) evidence of finances for international terrorist gunrunning, but it was from his work as a locum.”

An initial claim that Bassalat’s refusal to provide his phone PIN indicated something to hide, yet the lawyer contended it was the doctor who told police that, by accessing his phone, it would prove the lengths that McFadden had gone to in order to get him to come to meetings.

"My client intended to write a book on commonality between Irish and Palestinian prisoners. That must be the biggest regret of this poor man’s life as he sits in Maghaberry."

McFadden, it was claimed, “badgered” Bassalat to attend a meeting.

He arrived in Belfast with his children but they were left in the city while he drove Dr Bassalet to the meeting in Tyrone.

The case was adjourned to await expert medical reports.

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