Security service witnesses give evidence in terrorism trial

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MI5 planted an audio recording device in a west Belfast house where an alleged drug dealer was interrogated and threatened that he would have his “legs blown off with a shotgun”.

But a security service witness refused to tell Belfast Crown Court whether or not the device was “covert’’, saying it could “damage national security’’.

The MI5 technical officer, who was screened and given the cypher PIN 3572 to protect his identity, was giving evidence at the trial of four men accused of a number of terrorism-related charges, including IRA membership.

The four defendants are: 52-year-old Dunmurry men, Mark Gerard Heaney of Lagmore Gardens, and Daniel Joseph Anthony McClean of Lagmore Gardens, and west Belfast men, 62-year-old Kevin O’Neill from Coolnasilla Park South and 41-year-old Robert Warnock O’Neill of Bingnian Drive.

All are accused of IRA membership between December 2013 and June 2014, and conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm on a suspected drug dealer, among other charges.

They deny all the charges.

On the opening of the trial earlier this week, the prosecution told Judge Patricia Smyth the recordings were made between December 2013 and May 2014.

During questioning by the prosecution, PIN 3572 confirmed that he was a “technical officer with the security services’’.

He also confirmed that on a date prior to December 16, 2013, he installed an audio device at a property at Aspen Walk, Dunmurry.

The witness said that during the installation of the audio device, he was accompanied by another technical officer along with a “team leader PIN 4756’’.

Defence barrister Jon Paul Shields asked the witness: “This was a covert device?’’

PIN 3572 replied: “That answer could damage national security.’’

Two other witnesses – PIN 4578 and PIN 4126 – also gave evidence.

PIN 4578 confirmed that he was the team leader for the case.

PIN 4126 told the court that on a date after May 7, 2014, he returned to the property with an MI5 colleague, known as PIN 1004, to “extract the audio material’’.

Under cross-examination he also confirmed that he was the only person involved in both the installation and extraction of the device.

At hearing.