In doing so, the reporters agreed to comply with a court order by Federal District Judge Ronald Guzman.
The request for the tapes was submitted to the court by the defense in the McKevitt trial, which is now into its third week before Dublin’s Special Criminal Court.
The three reporters, Abdon Pallasch of the Chicago Sun Times, Robert Herguth, also of the Sun Times, and Flynn McRoberts of the Chicago Tribune, had conducted a series of taped interviews with Rupert with a view to writing a book.
At one point, Herguth replaced McRoberts as co-writer of the planned book.
According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times, the three reporters discussed the possibility of defying the federal court order and going to jail in order to retain control of the tapes.
They initially objected to turning over the tapes citing an Illinois law that protects reporters and their sources from court-ordered disclosure. On this basis, the three sought an emergency stay from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the request was turned down within a couple of hours.
Following this, and on the advice of their attorneys, the three opted to comply with the court order.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made,” Pallasch said in an Associated Press report carried by the Sun Times. “Ultimately, we had two very good lawyers who both advised us that if we went forward with our plan of going to jail and defending our right to not give up the tapes, we might prompt a bad ruling by the 7th Circuit [appellate court] on press freedoms. That would do more harm than good.”
Herguth confirmed to the Echo that the tapes were handed over at the end of last week.
McKevitt, 53, is facing charges of directing terrorism and of membership of the Real IRA. The directing terrorism charge is linked to the 1998 Omagh bombing. McKevitt has denied the charges.
Meanwhile, Rupert, who worked as an informant for both the FBI and the British intelligence service MI5, came under rigorous cross-examination by McKevitt’s defense counsel last week.
Defense counsel Hugh Hartnett told the court that Rupert had become an informant against dissident republicans in 1993 because he was desperate for cash.
Hartnett told the court that Rupert’s business in the U.S. had collapsed, that he had owed $750,000 to the IRS and that police were investigating the witness for mail fraud.
Rupert has stated to the non-jury, three-judge court that he was moved to inform on dissident republicans by his “moral teachings.”
During proceedings late last week, Rupert dismissed as “pure fantasy” a report by a New York State Police officer, read to the court by McKevitt’s counsel, alleging that Rupert was a “lifelong criminal” who had smuggled drugs, explosives and illegal aliens across the U.S.-Canadian border.