Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 13:26 UK

Spies testify on 'Real IRA sting'

Belfast Crown Court

Thirty five MI5 officers are to give evidence against three County Armagh men arrested after an operation against the Real IRA, a court has heard.

The trio pleaded not guilty at Belfast Crown Court to the charges, linked to what police believe was an international gun-smuggling operation.

The officers have applied to give evidence anonymously behind screens.

The court heard 90 hours of bugged conversations will be played at the trial, due to begin next April.

Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, 43, from Beech Court in Lurgan, denies a total of seven charges.

Portuguese restaurant

Mr McCaugherty is charged with conspiring to possess firearms and explosives and using 46,000 euros in Bruges and Amsterdam for the purposes of terrorism.

He is also accused of membership of a proscribed organisation.

He faces additional charges of entering into an arrangement to make the deeds of a restaurant in Alvor in Portugal available for the purposes of terrorism.

Dermot Declan Gregory, 41, also known as Michael Dermot, of Concession Road in Crossmaglen, faces a similar charge relating to the Portuguese restaurant.

Desmond Paul Kearns, 44, of Tannaghmore Green in Lurgan, is charged with conspiring to possess firearms and explosives.

All the offences are alleged to have happened between 23 May 2005 and 20 June 2006.

Mr Justice Hart was told by defence lawyers the legal papers were "voluminous" and the taped conversations would take months to transcribe.

The trial is expected to last up to three months.

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