By Patrick Markey
The deportation hearing of alleged former INLA member John Edward McNicholl entered its second phase in Philadelphia this week with dramatic courtroom appearances by McNicholl and an RUC officer he is accused of shooting two decades ago, McNicholl’s attorney and an immigration official said.
McNicholl is facing deportation back to Ireland where Northern authorities say he is still wanted for allegedly shooting and killing one RUC officer and wounding another in a gun battle in South Derry in 1975. The hearing in Philadelphia’s immigration court is expected to end Thursday, but a decision will be made only after a judge considers appeals. That process could take until September.
Last week RUC officers testified about the shooting as part of the U.S. government’s deportation case against McNicholl. He was arrested after the shooting but never convicted. He later escaped from the Maze prison in 1976 during a daring republican tunnel breakout.
McNicholl fled to Donegal and then onto Philadelphia where he was lived since the 1980s with his wife and children.
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service charges McNicholl entered America illegally in 1995 and also committed fraud because he did not notify them of the murder charges. As part of its case, the INS has brought over several RUC officers and also two British soldiers who testified about arresting McNicholl and at least two other people at a Derry farmhouse, an immigration official said.
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Also testifying last week on behalf of the government was renowned counter terrorism expert Paul Wilkinson.
McNicholl’s attorney, James Orlow, said he plans to question evidence presented by the government’s witnesses. On Monday, two witnesses testified on McNicholl’s behalf. They were Oistin Mac Bride, a photo-journalist, who talked about the RUC’s human rights record, and human rights attorney Richard Harvey.
The incident with which McNicholl has been charged took place in Dungiven in July 1975. Two RUC officers were called to check out a suspicious vehicle. When the officers arrived, two gunmen opened fired killing constable Robert McPherson and wounding the other officer.