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Case Against Human Rights Activist Dismissed in Shannon District Court
rights, freedoms and repression |
Thursday May 21, 2009 22:51 by John Lannon
Dr Horgan leaving court after the case
against him was dismissed
A case brought by the state against human rights activist Edward Horgan as a result of his requests to have a suspected CIA rendition plane searched at Shannon was dismissed in Ennis yesterday (20th May). Judge Mangan, presiding over Shannon District Court, dismissed the case on the basis of legal arguments made by Mr Horgan’s defence council.
For further details of the incident on 18 June Click Here.
For details of all CIA-linked rendition flights and US military use of Shannon airport Click Here.
For report of deaths caused by US interrogators Click Here.
On the morning of June 18th 2008 Mr Horgan went to Shannon to take photographs of a plane with registration N54PA. Mr Horgan had been made aware by contacts in the US that the plane was on its way to Shannon, and because it had recently been to Guantanamo Bay he was aware that there might be evidence on board of its use in illegal rendition exercises. He asked the authorities to inspect it but they refused. Instead they served Mr Horgan with a summons that claimed he had impeded an airport security officer and refused to leave a security hut.
The facts of the case were as follows: Mr. Horgan arrived at the airport shortly before 8am on the 8th June to photograph the aircraft. He entered the airport security lodge beside the fire station to request that airport security officers search it for evidence of possible breaches of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) and the Irish UNCAT Act of 2002. This demand was denied by the airport police officer at the security hut station, Mr Brian McCarthy. It was also denied by his superior, Mr James Watson, by Garda David Lang and by Garda Sergeant Kevin O’Hagan.
The state began its case by attempting to demonstrate that Mr Horgan was not permitted to be in the security hut - or “Position Number 1” as it became known to all in the Court. However, the Chief of Security at Shannon, John Francis, did concede in evidence that it is permissible for a member of the public to approach Position Number 1, and that there is nothing on the door of the hut to indicate that it is a restricted area.
Prior to Mr. Francis’ evidence, several photographs of the security hut were produced and examined. One of the issues of note in these photos was the positioning of two CCTV cameras on the outside of the building. Although Mr Horgan had requested all relevant footage to be supplied to him, he was only provided with footage from a camera inside the hut, and not from the outside cameras. When this was raised by defence council Mr Tony Gillicuddy BL, Inspector Tom Kennedy for the prosecution said that their footage was “not relevant” as these cameras “weren’t in the loop when the incident occurred”.
Chief of Security Francis was followed in the witness box by Brendan Mullins, a Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) engineer at Shannon, and Brian Vaughan who described himself as a Corporate Property Manager with the DAA. They produced a series of maps with lines, and a lot of opinions about what land was owned by the DAA. But as Mr Gillicuddy pointed out, their evidence fell short of proving anything relevant.
Next up was airport police officer Brian McCarthy whose job on that morning was to monitor everyone and everything entering the airport via Position Number 1. His evidence was that Mr Horgan had impeded his work while in the security hut, and he told the court that this resulted in a tailback of 6 or 7 cars/trucks trying to enter. He became unsure of when this tailback occurred and how long it really was as cross examination progressed. And when the CCTV footage from the camera inside the hut was shown in court, clearly showing only 3 vehicles in total approaching the position and passing through as normal, he undoubtedly became even less sure.
Airport police inspector and fire officer James Watson then gave evidence, followed by Garda David Lang and Sergeant Kevin O’Hagan. There was plenty of detail and cross examination but no startling revelations. And surprisingly none of these three men could remember any reference to Guantanamo Bay during the whole incident - despite the fact that Brian McCarthy’s evidence was that Mr Horgan had explained the connection between the plane and Gitmo!
Before proceeding with his case, defence council made an application to the judge for direction on a number of grounds. At this stage the state had spent over four hours attempting to build their case. However after listening to Mr Gillicuddy – who was accompanied by solicitor Pat Daly on the day - and Inspector Kennedy in relation to these points, he dismissed all charges on two points of law. The first was that no evidence was produced in court to show that Mr Horgan was told he would be committing an offence if he didn’t leave the security hut. The second was in relation to how the summons was drafted. The judge agreed with precise legal argument from Mr Gillicuddy in relation to the number of alleged offences and the number of charges on the summons, and dismissed on that basis.
After the hearing, Mr Horgan expressed his satisfaction that the case had been dismissed. However, he expressed disappointment that despite an application for Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy to appear in court to clarify if instructions were issued regarding searches of aircraft operated by the CIA, he did not appear. He also drew attention to reports released in recent days that US interrogators killed nearly four dozen detainees during or after their interrogations. These, he said, once again highlight the serious nature of Irish complicity in torture and the need for accountability in relation to this complicity. He also confirmed that he and other local Shannonwatch activists will continue to observe and record rendition-related activity at Shannon, and to demand answers on behalf of the thousands who have been illegally kidnapped and tortured by US agents using the airport.