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Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 19:02 GMT
IRA killer freed on bail

Magee appeared at the Irish High Court
An IRA killer has been freed on bail after beginning a legal challenge to an order seeking his extradition to Northern Ireland for the murder of an SAS captain.

Paul Magee, 51, was given bail after a hearing in the Irish High Court in Dublin on Thursday afternoon.

He is wanted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary for the murder of a British Army officer in Belfast 20 years ago and faces a life sentence in prison.

The father-of-four was convicted in 1981 of the murder of Captain Herbert Westmacott of the SAS. But he escaped from custody two days before being convicted and was sentenced in his absence.

Bail was allowed on his own bond of IR£1,000 and two sureties of IR£5,000, one of which was provided by Dublin Sinn Fein councillor Christy Burke.

Magee was granted leave to challenge extradition proceedings against him arising from a warrant issued in 1991.

The court heard that the Good Friday Agreement - especially the release of paramilitary prisoners - had "fundamentally changed" the context in which the courts originally decided to send him to Northern Ireland.

Magee's case will come before the High Court for a preliminary hearing on March 20. The challenge to extradition is expected to begin in earnest next month.

He had been arrested in Tralee, County Kerry, on Wednesday morning.

His arrest follows that of his IRA colleague Angelo Fusco on 4 January.

SAS Captain Herbert Westmacott: Murdered in 1980
They were members of the same IRA unit convicted of the 1980 murder of the SAS officer and both escaped in a mass breakout from Crumlin Road jail in Belfast.

They were later recaptured in the Irish republic and served sentences there for the Belfast escape.

In 1993 Magee was convicted at the Old Bailey in London of the previous year's murder of Special Constable Glen Goodman in Yorkshire.

He was again jailed for life, but two years ago he was switched to a jail in the Irish Republic under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Convention.

Last Christmas, in common with other jailed IRA personnel, he was granted temporary release by the Irish Government as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Since then he has been living in Tralee with his wife and family.

During a court hearing on Wednesday, a lawyer representing the Dublin government said there was no question of Magee being extradited before the end of any sentence imposed in the Irish Republic.

Counsel also said a life sentence had no defined ending, but Magee had been due for early release in May of this year.

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