Northern Ireland news

Doctor accused of addressing high-ranking New IRA gathering faces further delay in fight to be released

Dr Issam Bassalat is among 10 people facing prosecution following a joint PSNI and MI5 operation

A PALESTINIAN doctor accused of addressing a high-ranking New IRA gathering is facing further delay in his legal fight to be released from custody.

Issam Bassalat's latest High Court bail application was put on hold on Friday so that a judge can study up to 2,000 pages of documents prepared by his defence.

The submitted material includes medical records on his spinal surgery and a heart attack suffered while being held over alleged links to terrorist activity.

Dr Bassalat (64) is among 10 people facing prosecution following a joint PSNI and MI5 operation against the dissident republican grouping.

The sting involved bugging two suspected meetings at properties in Co Tyrone last year.

Dr Bassalat, with an address at Telford Road in Edinburgh, was subsequently detained at London's Heathrow Airport.

He has now spent more than a year in custody on a charge of preparatory acts of terrorism by allegedly attending and addressing a meeting of the IRA's Executive in Omagh on July 19.

Previous courts heard claims that the doctor was part of a plan by the grouping to source weapons.

But the accused insists he had been duped and pestered into attending by an alleged MI5 agent, believing that he was there to give a lawful talk about the situation in Palestine.

A fifth application for High Court bail was set to go ahead on Friday.

However, Mr Justice Rooney adjourned the hearing after receiving files setting out the defence and prosecution cases, as well as information on a family custody battle involving the accused.

Stressing that he needed time to go through the "voluminous" papers, the judge pledged to give priority to the bail application rescheduled for next week.

Defence barrister Brenda Campbell QC acknowledged: "It will be disappointing to Dr Bassalat, but we want the court to consider the points we make carefully.

"My overall submission will be that when scrutinised they fall in favour of the applicant."

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