By Patrick Markey
A federal judge in Florida yesterday denied bail for the four Irish nationals charged in an alleged plot to ship arms and ammunition from the North America to Ireland.
Attorneys for the four defendants had asked a judge to re-examine the issue of bail at a hearing two weeks ago although prosecutors pushed for continued incarceration.
But at a hearing in Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning, District Court Judge Wilkie D. Ferguson ruled that the defendants were a flight risk, a danger to the community and should be held until trial, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami.
Judge Ferguson set a preliminary date of Jan. 10 for the start of the trial, the spokeswoman said.
The four suspects, Conor Claxton, Siobhan Browne, Martin Mullan and Anthony Smyth, were arrested in Fort Lauderdale and Philadelphia in July after authorities uncovered what they charged was a plot to post handguns, shotguns and ammunition to Ireland.
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The defendants allegedly posted a number of packages to Britain and Ireland containing weapons disguised in parcels of toys and electronic equipment. The four suspects are currently being held on weapon smuggling charges which carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
United States prosecutors are also preparing to file a second indictment that may include terrorism and arms charges. The government has 30 to 60 days to file that indictment. Conviction on terrorism charges could carry a life sentence.
During questioning, one of the suspects, Claxton, allegedly told investigators he operating under orders from the IRA. Claxton’s attorney denied he made those remarks, but the allegations led to criticism over the status of Northern Ireland’s republican cease-fires.