Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Dissidents show media 'strength'

Dublin's Special Criminal Court
The trial is taking place at Dublin's Special Criminal Court

The trial of four Londonderry men charged with membership of an illegal organisation has begun at the special criminal court in Dublin.

They were arrested in County Donegal in March by gardai investigating alleged Republican dissident activity.

The three judge non-jury court was told officers acted on information that a paramilitary group was about to put on a show of strength for the media.

All four pleaded not guilty at the court on Tuesday.

Gardai said they put in place an operation that monitored the movements of various people in the Bridgend area on 15 March.

Prosecution council said detectives stopped a white transit van, in the back of which they found a dictaphone, four notebooks, a digital camera, two camcorders, two tripods and a camera memory card.

Analysis of two videotapes saw a news conference recording in which media members questioned three masked men with balaclavas and one with a firearm.

The court heard that an examination of 53 recovered photos showed two of the four accused in the background, and an expert suggested another defendant was one of the three masked men.

The court also heard the four refused to answer "material questions" whilst in custody, but two said they were helping Spotlight documentary makers.

The accused are 38-year-old Gary Donnelly from Kildrum Gardens, Michael Gallagher, 28, from Sackville Court, 39-year-old Patrick John McDaid from Marlborough Street and Martin Francis O'Neill from Colmcille Court.

The trial continues.

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