Dissident letter ‘intercepted by prison’

Dissident letter ‘intercepted by prison’

A 38-year-old man has appeared in court in Londonderry charged with directing terrorism and membership of the IRA, after a letter was intercepted by prison staff.

Police told the city's magistrates' court on Monday that they believe Thomas Ashe Mellon from Rathmore Road in the city is a prominent member of the New IRA.Mellon, who was detained in north Belfast on Friday, was charged after a letter written on cigarette papers and destined for a convicted dissident terrorist, was intercepted on a man named only as Mr O by staff at Maghaberry Prison.A Detective Constable said evidence from a handwriting expert and a DNA examination of the letter strongly suggests Mellon was the author.The contents of the letter were read to the court. It said: "To determine who is the Brussel [tout] is very hard."The letter went on to say: "I will not allow any dual army operating along with the IRA without us knowing about it.The letter also warned that republican prisoners "should not engage in loose talk" and was signed "take care T".The Detective Constable said police can connect Mellon to the charges and said the letter is evidence that he holds a leadership position within the IRA.However, Mellon's solicitor described the evidence against him as weak.He said the DNA evidence does not prove that Mellon was the author and said the letter was more of a rant which did not contain anything in which was not directing anyone to do anything.Police are also treating Mr O as a suspect in the case and are currently searching for him.Mellon gave the thumbs up to a large group of supporters while he was in the dock but refused to recognise the court.District Judge Barney McElhome rejected his bail application.Supporters clapped and cheered outside the courthouse as Mellon was driven into custody.He will appear before the court again via videolink next month.


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