The High Court has prevented the handing over to the Northern Ireland authorities of Angelo Fusco, the man convicted of the murder 20 years ago of the SAS Captain Herbert Westmacott in Belfast. Fusco, who has been on the run for the past two years, was arrested by Gardaí at a checkpoint in Castleisland in County Kerry last night. Fusco was under Garda escort on his way to the border to be handed over to the RUC on foot of an order for his extradition, when the High Court made its ruling stopping the procedure. Mr Justice Joe Finnegan also ordered that Fusco be produced before the High Court on Thursday morning at 11am. The High Court will be asked to free the former IRA member from custody on the grounds of changes in circumstances brought about by the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Fusco will be held in Mountjoy Prison until his court appearance. The British Conservative Party spokesman on Northern Ireland, Andrew Mackay tonight criticised the court ruling, saying that it undermined the political process.

Angelo Fusco escaped from Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast in 1981 two days before being convicted of murdering Captain Westmacott, the most high-ranking member of the SAS to be killed in the North. Fusco and seven other prisoners escaped from Crumlin Road jail in Belfast in 1981. He was arrested by Gardaí in Tralee in January 1982 and was sentenced to ten years in jail in Portlaoise for the Crumlin Road escape. As his sentence drew to a close, he was brought before Dublin District Court on foot of extradition warrants brought by the Northern Irish authorities in relation to the Westmacott murder. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court which in ruled in February 1998 that he should be arrested and extradited. Fusco had been on the run since then.