A man accused of storing a major consignment of Semtex in his flat is to be granted bail, a High Court judge ruled today.
Prosecutors opposed Thomas Hughes’ release by alleging a terrorist grouping had entrusted him with an amount capable of making a number of explosive devices.
It was also claimed that a photograph found in the north Belfast apartment showed him standing under the banner ‘3rd Battalion Oglaigh na hEireann’.
But Mr Justice Weatherup decided he could be bailed after being handed a series of references from local community workers and a parish priest.
Hughes, 47, from the New Lodge area, is charged with possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.
Police discovered 2.5kg of Semtex in an airing cupboard during searches of his flat last week.
It had been cut into two blocks and was wrapped in clingfilm and tinfoil. Latex gloves and a knife suspected of having been used to divide the explosives were also seized.
The accused, who is originally from Scotland, was not in the property at the time of the raids.
He later went to police and denied knowing anything about the find, claiming to spend most of his time at his partner’s home.
Hughes told detectives that friends visited the flat and raised an issue about a key left with a concierge having gone missing, the court heard.
However, counsel for the prosecution argued that he should not be released due to the risk of any re-offending.
He claimed: “This Semtex is clearly linked to a terrorist organisation of which he must be a highly trusted member to have been given responsibility for it.”
The court was told no date could be put on the alleged picture of Hughes under the ONH banner.
Another photograph from hunger striker Bobby Sands’ funeral was also discovered in the flat, according to the prosecution.
But defence barrister Tom McCreanor insisted: “This man made clear he had absolutely no truck with dissident republicans.
“He said he wasn’t involved at any stage in any paramilitary activity.”
Ruling on the application, Mr Justice Weatherup held that the accused has a case to answer.
However, pointing to the references provided on his behalf, the judge added: “There are a number of people doing good work in the community to whom Mr Hughes has been a supporter.”
Bail was granted on condition that the accused reports daily to police, lives with his partner and stays away from his flat.
A £10,000 surety is also be to lodged as part of the terms of his release.