By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Self-confessed RUC agent and UDA quartermaster, William Stobie was freed on bail by the High Court on Monday in an embarrassment for the RUC Special Branch.
Stobie is accused of supplying the guns used to kill Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane in February 1989. At the time he was informing on his activities in the UDA to the RUC Special Branch and claims it failed to prevent the murder or apprehend those responsible afterward.
The court accepted Stobie’s lawyer’s claim that his client had informed his RUC handlers nine years ago that the UDA was planning to kill a high-profile target and that he was unlikely to abscond if given bail.
Stobie smiled at friends in the public gallery on hearing the judge’s ruling that he be freed. Outside the court, journalist Ed Moloney said the decision vindicated his refusal to supply interview notes he took nine years ago detailing Stobie’s role in the Finucane murder.
Moloney’s lawyers are seeking to overturn a previous court ruling that he supply his notes to detectives investigating the reopened police inquiry into the Finucane murder. A judgment in that action is expected later this week.
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Moloney says that even if the court rules he must hand over his notes, he will refuse to do so for reasons of journalistic ethics, to protect his personal safety and ensure his integrity as a journalist working in Northern Ireland.
"Today’s proceedings bear out all we have been saying, that the authorities don’t need my notes because William Stobie has already told them all he knows about the murder of Pat Finucane," Moloney said outside court on Tuesday.
"I am now calling on the reopened inquiry into the killing to abandon their attempts to get my notes. Today’s evidence bore out our claims that Stobie was an informer and that before the murder he told the RUC handling him that there was to be a high-profile killing.
"The authorities knew all Stobie could tell them about the murder and failed to prevent it. They also knew afterward who had the murder weapons and where they could be found," he said.
In court, Stobie’s barrister said that the RUC had provided 122 pages of closely typed interview notes to his solicitor, but most of the names of the Special Branch officers and UDA co-conspirators in the Finucane murder had been blacked out.
He said the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions had been unhelpful and mischievous in a previous bail hearing and that the Special Branch had intervened to prevent their informer being charged with Finucane’s murder in 1990.
Meanwhile, the United Nations special rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Indian diplomat Abid Hussain, is to visit Belfast later this month, and intends to meet with Moloney.
The special rapporteur had planned to visit the North before the case came before the courts, according to his spokesperson in Geneva, but will "certainly" be meeting Moloney during a two-day visit to Belfast, she said.