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The BBC's David Eades
"This is a legal hearing but with immense political significance"
 real 56k

Spokesman for the Adair family John White
"Mr Adair has not done anything illegal"
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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 22:15 GMT
Loyalist's fate known within days
Johnny Adair
Johnny Adair: NI secretary said he should serve full term
A decision on whether a convicted loyalist paramilitary leader will remain in jail or be freed is expected to be made early next week.

The Sentence Review Commission is to spend the day on Friday deliberating over the case of convicted Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) leader Johnny Adair, who was re-imprisoned last August.

Adair, 37, was sent back to jail during a bitter feud between rival loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

His re-arrest came almost a year after he had been given early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The loyalist, from Belfast's Shankill Road, had served five years of a 16-year sentence for directing terrorism.

On 8 December, the commission issued a preliminary decision which recommended Adair should be released again on licence.

Peter Mandelson ordered Adair's re-arrest based on police intelligence reports
But Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson and the police are opposing the decision, and it is up to three commissioners to make a ruling or "substantive determination" on the issue.

Closing arguments were heard before the case ended on Thursday evening at Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn.

Police intelligence assessments of Adair's activities while free from jail on licence were expected to be outlined.

The commissioners had previously heard submissions from RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan and representatives of the Northern Ireland Office.

Adair was excluded from the hearing on Thursday morning while the intelligence evidence was being presented to the commission.

However, it was understood he was present to hear the closing arguments in the case.

Intelligence report

When Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson ordered Adair's re-arrest, he said the peace process could have been derailed if the feud between rival loyalist paramilitary groups had spread to Catholic areas.

Mr Mandelson said he had evidence of the leading loyalist's involvement in heightening tensions in the feud.

He said Adair would have to serve the remainder of his term.

The Northern Ireland secretary's decision to re-imprison Adair was based on a six-point police intelligence report which was marked "top secret, high grade, reliable and accurate".

The report on Adair's "preparation, instigation and organisation of terrorist activity" since his release claimed he had forged links with loyalist splinter group, the Loyalist Volunteer Force, and was involved in heightening tensions in interface areas.

It also said he was involved in the illegal drugs trade and in acquiring weapons.

It added that: "Since his release from prison [Adair] had demonstrated considerable military influence within the UDA and UFF."

It is not clear if this report was given to the commissioners.

John White, chairman of the Ulster Democratic Party, which has links to the UDA/UFF, former UDA leader Andy Tyrie, and the Reverend Roy Magee, who helped to broker the 1994 loyalist ceasefires, attended the hearing on Wednesday.

Mr White said the Sentence Review Commission had said Adair should be released, and it was now up to the government to say why he should remain in prison.

If the commissioners recommend the release of Adair, the government could challenge that decision in the courts.

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See also:

06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Johnny Adair: Feared loyalist leader
08 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
NIO to challenge Adair release
10 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Adair 'to serve remainder of term'
23 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist Adair 'linked to drugs and guns'
08 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Killings attempt to 're-ignite conflict'
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