[JURIST] The Belfast High Court on Monday found [judgment text; judgment summary, DOC] four men and the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) responsible for the 1998 Omagh bombing [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in a civil case brought by victims' families. The ruling held RIRA leader Michael McKevitt [personal website], Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy, and Seamus Daly liable for the terrorist attack that claimed at least 28 lives and injured about 220, awarding £1.64 million [Times Online report] to 12 plaintiffs. Presiding Justice Morgan found that McKevitt was involved in obtaining explosives for the organization based on evidence provided by an undercover FBI agent. The civil action was brought after criminal convictions failed against the alleged bombers. McKevitt maintains [text] that he and the other defendants were "consistently denied equality, fairness and an opportunity to put forward a defense [sic]." The Omagh Support and Self Help Group [advocacy website] hopes [press release] that the judgment sets a "groundbreaking precedent for future victims of terrorism," since the ruling is the first of its kind to be issued against both the alleged individual perpetrators and the terrorist organization itself.
McKevitt was convicted in August, 2003 for directing and being a member of an illegal organization and is currently serving a 20-year sentence. In December 2007, a Belfast judge found alleged RIRA 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 Colm Murphy, which was later quashed for mishandling evidence [JURIST report]. 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 Provisional Irish Republican Army [MI5 profile], opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process.