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Northern Ireland man James Corry goes on trial on Wednesday in Germany charged with attempted murder for alleged involvement in the 1996 bombing of a British army barracks.
German prosecutors believe Mr Corry, a 48 year-old former TV actor, was one of at least four people involved in Provisional IRA (PIRA) attack on the British “Quebec” army barracks in Osnabrück in June 1996 intended to kill British soldiers and other base personnel.
Two of the three mortars, attached to a timer in a pick-up van, failed to detonate and no one was killed or injured in the attack, which caused substantial damage to the base, home to 150 soldiers at the time.
Mr Corry, a Belfast native and resident of Killorglin, Co Kerry, was extradited to Germany last December where he has since been remanded in custody. He denies any involvement in the attack or membership of the PIRA.
The 1996 attack was the second PIRA attack on the base, after a Semtex attack in 1989. In 2003 a German court sentenced former British soldier Michael Dixon to six years and six months for his role in the 1996 attack.
Four years previously, Roisin McAliskey, daughter of former republican Mid-Ulster MP Bernadette Devlin, had her extradition over the attack blocked on health grounds.
Last year’s extradition was the second attempt by German authorities to prosecute Mr Corry. A previous attempt in 1996 failed as no extradition agreement existed between Germany and Ireland.
On October 9th last he was arrested by gardaí in Killorglin on his way to work, remanded and released on bail before December’s extradition trial.
Since his arrival in Frankfurt before Christmas he has been on remand in a Lower Saxon prison.
Mr Corry’s Irish and German lawyers have criticised the pursuit of Mr Corry two decades after the attack, claiming German prosecutors failed to act despite being told his address by gardaí in 2004.
German prosecutors dispute this, saying they were not informed Mr Corry had been resident in Killorglin for 20 years with his wife Christine and family.
“There is no statute of limitations on murder and we were obliged to pursue this case as we had a strong suspicion (of Mr Corry’s involvement),” said a spokesman for the federal prosecutor.
On Mr Corry’s arrival in Germany, the federal prosecutor transferred responsibility for the case to the local prosecutor in Celle, Lower Saxony. This was standard procedure given the “lower importance of the case that is so long ago”.
“Generally this would be a case for us but the law gives us the option to hand over certain cases that don’t have to be pursued to the end by us,” said the spokesman for the federal prosecutor.
While the German prosecutor declined to say what prompted them to file for Mr Corry’s extradition last year, 20 years after the attack, the length of time between attack and prosecution is expected to be a key point of argument for Mr Corry’s legal team.
Mr Dirk Schoenian, defence counsel for Mr Corry, has described the delayed trial as an “anachronism” that breaches his client’s fundamental rights.