TWO Belfast men under dissident republican death threat for alleged involvement in drugs are to stand trial in the new year.
Eamon Clarke (24) and Mark Kennedy (33) pleaded not guilty on arraignment at Belfast Crown Court today (Monday) to possessing cannabis resin and having the Class B drug with intent to supply in June 2011.
A prosecution lawyer told Belfast Recorder David McFarland that the evidence against the accused was “largely based on fingerprint evidence”.
Clarke, of Great Victoria Street, and Kennedy, of Glennor Crescent East, Carryduff, were returned for trial in 2014 and were released on continuing bail
The exact date cannot be disclosed because of a reporting restriction.
At a previous hearing, a ban on identifying Clarke and Kennedy had been imposed after police involved in the Kevin Kearney murder investigation assessed the risk against them.
Mr Kearney, 45, was shot dead in north Belfast in october and his body dumped at Alexandra Park.
A group calling itself the ‘New IRA’ later admitted in a statement to The Irish News newspaper that it had murdered Mr Kearney.
But reporting restrictions were lifted at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on October 28 on the basis that those intent on harming the pair already know them and had formed opinions on their alleged activities.
No details of their court appearances can be published, however, in a bid to ensure their protection.
A temporary prohibition on naming either man was imposed when the case came before the city’s Magistrates’ Court for the first time two months ago.
Defence lawyers based their fears on media reports and from speaking to police.
Details of a threat found on a republican website were put forward as part of their case.
District Judge Fiona Bagnall was also alerted to reports of masked and armed men going into a bar in the city earlier this month, reading out a statement, naming a number of people and warning them to leave the area.
A police officer involved in the case confirmed attempts have been made to contact Clarke and alert him to a threat against him.
The message the PSNI intend to give him reads: “A report to police states that a threat to Eamon Clarke has been issued by paramilitaries.
“The threat states that he had 48 hours to leave or would be executed.”
According to a senior detective investigating the murder of Mr Kearney the threat is credible, the court heard.