THE ULSTER People’s Forum founder Willie Frazer has had all police charges dramatically dropped on Wednesday afternoon.
It followed discussions between Frazer’s legal team and a barrister for the Public Prosecution Service.
In a statement afterwards on Facebook, Frazer accused the police of fitting him up on the charges.
He said: “Fourteen months since the flag protests at Belfast City Hall, my arrest and imprisonment, and the PSNI have now dropped all the charges.
“This was a set up from the start to silence me and the peaceful protestors many of whom are still wrongly imprisoned.
“I have won this small battle against political policing and vow to keep fighting for our flag and IRA victims.
“And to you DUP ones that laughed on social media with tweets and insults – stuff you, the nutters have won the day.
“Time for change, vote for change, not more of the same,” he added.
Frazer, a key organiser of the Union flag protests, was formally charged last year and hauled before Belfast Magistrates’ Court and charged with public order offences and having an offensive weapon.
The 52-year-old originally faced a total of six charges.
He was charged with possession of an offensive weapon, namely a stun gun cattle prodder, addressing a public assembly in Donegall Square in Belfast encouraging and three charges of participating in an illegal parade.
During his firs court appearance, the police objected to bail on the basis that the defendant might encourage more protests in the future.
His defence lawyer Richard Smyth said Mr Frazer was not before the court for organising parades and that he did not believe he was taking part in any unlawful ones.
Defence barrister Richard Smyth argued that his client had urged the crowd at Belfast City Hall to “keep it peaceful”.
Mr Smyth insisted: “What this applicant is alleged to have said at the scene wasn’t in any way inflammatory.”
He also pointed to the accused’s clear record and raised issues about his health.
Dealing with the stun gun allegations, the lawyer said Mr Frazer had taken it from people involved in a dispute in Markethill, CountyArmagh, a number of years ago.
He believed it was a cattle prodder that didn’t work, the court heard.
Mr Smyth added: “This man’s profile, and I accept he does have a profile, has brought him before the court.”
District Judge Mervyn Bates said he was refusing bail based on the more serious charges of encouraging offences and having a prohibited weapon.
He told Mr Frazer: “The grounds of objection are founded on the frequency of this kind of offence at the current time and the harm it is doing to the economy of this country.
“Given everything I have heard about this matter… I do not consider you to be a suitable candidate for bail.”
He told the defendant he could apply for High Court bail.
As Mr Frazer was led away from the dock, he told the judge: “No thank you your honour I’ll stay in jail”.
There were claps from the public gallery.
The former director of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) was remanded in custody to Maghaberry prison to appear back in court in four weeks time.
However, he was later granted bail but under strict conditions.