Semtex accused bailed with priest’s help

Semtex accused bailed with priest’s help

A man accused of storing a major consignment of Semtex in his Belfast flat has been granted bail, a High Court judge has ruled after receiving character references from a priest and community workers.

Prosecutors, opposing the release of Thomas Hughes, alleged a terrorist grouping had entrusted him with an amount of the volatile material which was capable of making a number of explosive devices.It was also claimed that a photograph found in the north Belfast apartment showed him standing under a banner which said '3rd Battalion Oglaigh na hEireann'.However, Mr Justice Weatherup decided he could be bailed after being handed a series of references from local community workers and a priest.Hughes, 47, from Maeve House in the New Lodge area of Belfast, is charged with possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.Police discovered 2.5kgs of Semtex in an airing cupboard during searches of his flat last week.It had been cut into two blocks and was wrapped in clingfilm and tinfoil.Latex gloves and a knife suspected of having been used to divide the explosives were also seized.Police said the find was the largest consignment of explosives found in Northern Ireland in the last decade.The accused, who is originally from Scotland, was not in the property at the time of the raids.He later went to police and denied knowing anything about the find, claiming to spend most of his time at his partner's home.Hughes told detectives that friends visited the flat and raised an issue about a key left with a concierge having gone missing, the court heard.However, counsel for the prosecution argued that Hughes should not be released due to the risk of any re-offending.He claimed: "This Semtex is clearly linked to a terrorist organisation of which he must be a highly trusted member to have been given responsibility for it."The court was told no date could be put on the alleged picture of Hughes under the ONH banner.Another photograph from the funeral of hunger striker Bobby Sands was also discovered in the flat, according to the prosecution.But defence barrister Tom McCreanor insisted: "This man made clear he had absolutely no truck with dissident republicans."He has said he wasn't involved at any stage in any paramilitary activity."Ruling on the application, Mr Justice Weatherup held that the accused has a case to answer.However, pointing to the references provided on his behalf, the judge added: "There are a number of people doing good work in the community to whom Mr Hughes has been a supporter."Bail was granted on condition that the accused reports daily to police, lives with his partner and stays away from his flat.A £10,000 surety was also be to lodged as part of the terms of his release.


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