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Northern Ireland starts civil trial of 1998 Omagh bombing suspects

[JURIST] The Belfast High Court on Monday heard arguments in a civil lawsuit against five suspected Real IRA [BBC backgrounder] members accused of involvement in the deadly 1998 Omagh bombing [BBC backgrounder], in which a car loaded with explosives killed 29 people and wounded 220 on a busy shopping street in the Northern Ireland town. Six families whose relatives died in the bombing brought the lawsuit against Liam Campbell, Seamus Daly, Seamus McKenna, Michael McKevitt, and Colm Murphy. The family members are seeking approximately $20 million in damages. The court hearing will temporarily be relocated to Dublin to allow the presiding judge to hear evidence from the Irish national police.

In December 2007, a Belfast judge found alleged Real IRA member Sean Gerard Hoey not guilty of murder [JURIST report] in relation to the bombing, ruling that there was insufficient DNA evidence linking Hoey to the bomb to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he made the device. The only conviction in connection with the Omagh bombing was in 2002 against Murphy, but that was later quashed for mishandling of evidence [JURIST report]. Murphy's retrial is pending. In 2005, the Irish Public Prosecution Service dropped charges [JURIST report] against another suspect, Anthony Joseph Donegan. The Real IRA is a splinter group of the former provisional Irish Republican Army opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process. AP has more. BBC News has local coverage.

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