Man appears at Ballymena Magistrates Court to face terror-related charges

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Capanagh Forest. Picture – Google Maps.

A 29-year-old Larne man appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday to face terror-related charges.

Niall Lehd of Seahill Road in the Seacourt estate faces three charges including preparation of terrorist acts; possessing explosives with intent to endanger life and having documents likely to be of use in terrorism.

The specifics of the first charge are that ‘between the 1st day of January 2011 and the 28th day of February 2013, with the intention of committing acts of terrorism or assisting another to commit such acts, engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect to your intention, namely manufacturing explosive substances; constructing explosive devices; creating and maintaining hides to store explosive substances, explosive devices, components for explosive devices, ammunition, weapons, tools and resources used during the construction of explosive devices and other assorted items linked to the preparation of an act of terrorism’.

The lengthy first charge also accuses the defendant of ‘purchasing or otherwise obtaining articles for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism specifically chemicals and components to be used in the manufacture of explosive substances and the construction of explosive devices, and conducted research resulting in the creation of a library of documents providing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism specifically information regarding the manufacture of explosive substances, the construction of explosive devices.’

The second charge Lehd faces is that ‘between 31st day of March 2016 and 28th day of August 2016, unlawfully and maliciously had in your possession or under your control certain explosive substances, namely, an Explosively Formed Projectile with an Erythritol Tetranitrate main charge, a Claymore mine, a quantity of pipe bombs, a quantity of plastic improvised explosives devices, a quantity of Ignitor safety fuse electric fuses, a quantity of ignition switches, a quantity of Erythritol Tetranitrate and a quantity of diazodinitrophenol, with intent by means thereof to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the United Kingdom or to enable some other person so to do’.

The third alleges that Lehd ‘on the 26th day of August 2016, without reasonable excuse possessed a document or record containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, namely , instructions for downloading the Torrent (Tor) Browser’.

The defendant appeared in the dock in handcuffs.

A prosecutor said Lehd was currently a serving prisoner with a release date of March next year.

A defence solicitor said he had not taken any instructions from the defendant.

The defendant declined to stand when the charges were read.

A PSNI Detective Constable said he believed he could connect the accused to the charges.

The defence solicitor said he had no questions for the officer.

The prosecution lawyer asked for an adjournment of six to eight weeks saying the full file had still to be received.

No application was made for bail and the defendant was remanded into custody to appear back at court via video link from prison on January 17.

Lehd was arrested by officers investigating the discovery of weapons in areas near Larne.

A dissident republican who infiltrated the British military was last year sentenced to 18 years in prison for supplying and building bombs found at the locations.

Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell stashed anti-personnel mines, mortars, ammunition and 14 pipe bombs – four of which were later used – in 43 purpose-built hides at eight locations in Northern Ireland and England, including hauls buried in barrels at Carnfunnock and Capanagh forest near Larne.

Maxwell, originally from Larne, was a serving member 40 Commando based at Norton Manor Camp in Taunton, Somerset, at the time of the offences.

He was sentenced at the Old Bailey after pleading guilty to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August 2016, possessing images of bank cards for fraud and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

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