Suspected IRA dissident to stand trial for 29 murders

A Belfast judge ordered a suspected Irish Republican Army dissident Friday to stand trial for the murders of 29 people in the 1998 car bombing of Omagh, Northern Ireland's deadliest terrorist attack.

Magistrate Desmond Perry said state prosecutors had assembled a sufficiently strong case for murder charges to proceed against Sean Hoey, 36, the first person to be charged with killing the 29 civilians in Omagh.

Perry's ruling followed three days of argument in Belfast Magistrates Court by prosecutors and Hoey's defense attorneys, who contended that the police forensic evidence against Hoey was too weak for the case to proceed.

But Perry dismissed the defense's arguments as "fatuous" and said Hoey had "a case to answer" for 58 charges connected to 14 bombs planted by the Real IRA faction in 1998, the year that Northern Ireland politicians achieved the landmark Good Friday peace pact. The judge dismissed three other charges.

Perry cited "the cumulative effect of the huge quantity of evidence that the defendant was the man who manufactured these 14 devices, the most devastating of which decimated the center of Omagh and resulted in the tragic deaths of 29 innocent people," reports the AP.

A court artist's drawing of Sean Gerard Hoey

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