Éirígí press officer bailed over photos

Published Wednesday, 29 January 2014
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The Newry press officer for the republican party, Éirígí, accused of having information useful to terrorists, was freed on bail on Tuesday evening after Belfast's Deputy Recorder, Judge Corinne Philpott QC reserved judgement in his case.

Éirígí press officer bailed over photos
Murney's supporters protest at the St Patrick''s Day parade in Newry last year. (© UTV)

Stephen Martin Murney, a 30-year-old father of one, has been in custody since November 2012 when police raided his Derrybeg Terrace home.

He was granted bail due to the time already served while awaiting trial on the seven charges of possessing, collecting and communicating the information.

Belfast Crown Court has heard that the photographs of policemen taken between August 2011 and July 2012, and published on his Facebook page, were found during the police search on a computer together with two videos on an iphone.

Earlier on Tuesday, Murney maintained that he believed he was "doing no wrong" in publishing the unedited pictures, although he accepted that in two cases the faces of the officers had been 'blanked out" on the social network page.

He had told Judge Philpott that such work was too technical for him, but promised to learn the technique for pixilating faces in future as he intended to remain a PRO for the party.

On Tuesday, Murney said when one of the pictures was blacked-out, he "wasn't too sure about the legitimacy of the photograph" at the time.

He explained "different people were saying different things" to him about photographs and that he only remembered those two pictures ever being blanked out.

However, he rejected a prosecution suggestion that when forced into a "tight spot you repeat the mantra...'I didn't think I was doing anything wrong'."

The Newry man repeated that as a press officer for Éirígí his job was to take photographs and to draft press statements.

The photographs, he said, mainly concerned police harassment, particularly of himself.

However, while he helped organise a number of events in support of prisoners from paramilitary groups, Murney denied directly supporting the prisoners themselves.

"I support the Human Rights of prisoners ...... it doesn't mean I support their views," said Murney, who described himself as a "political activist".

Time and again, during his cross-examination, he repeated that he "did not believe I was doing anything wrong", and that he was "surprised it got this far and ended up in court".

"In my view I had a reason to do it. I didn't think I would be charged ...I was doing it for a legitimate purpose," he said.

However, Murney denied that he had created his Facebook page as "an open source for paramilitaries" to identify and target officers. He also rejected suggestions he had photographed and published his pictures to "wind up and annoy" the police, although he admitted he regarded the PSNI as an illegitimate force.

Asked about one particular picture of an officer, about which he had also published the comment: "If he annoys me, I'll annoy him," Murney described it as "just an off the cuff comment, not to be taken literally".

© UTV News
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