Two brothers have been charged with the murder of a prominent loyalist in Belfast eight years ago.

David Stewart, 38, and Robert Stewart, 34, deny shooting alleged Ulster Defence Association member Tommy English.

The pair also face another three charges each of membership of the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force on dates between 1994 and this year.

At a brief hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court this morning. David and Robert Stewart spoke only to confirm they understood the charges.

It is the first case to be brought to court by the Historical Inquiries Team, which was set up to investigate unsolved murders.

Tommy English was shot dead in front of his wife in Newtownabbey in October 2000.

Mr English, who had been involved with the UDA's political wing in the negotiations leading up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, was killed by the UVF during its feud with the UDA.

He was one of four men shot dead within a week. Seven men were killed in the three months of loyalist in-fighting.

His murder was reinvestigated by the HET following a damning report by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan in January 2007 on alleged collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in the greater north Belfast area.

Ms O'Loan said paramilitaries had effectively been given immunity to kill in as many as 12 murders in order to protect senior UVF member and police informer Mark Haddock.