LONDON -- Six men, including a former U.S. military explosives specialist, were convicted yesterday of having plotted to black out London and most of southeastern England in a series of bombings of electrical power stations by the Irish Republican Army a year ago.
The six, some of whom were described by prosecutors as senior commanders of the IRA, were found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions and sentenced to 35 years in prison each. Two men, one charged with being a courier and the other accused of providing premises and false papers to the conspirators, were ,, acquitted.
"Those who seek to advance a political argument by terrorism can expect no mercy in the courts of this land," said Justice Scott Baker in announcing the sentences.
The group was picked up in raids on three rented London hide-outs July 15.
Prosecutors said bombs were to be attached to transformers at each of the six power stations ringing London in what the IRA hoped would be its biggest operation on the British mainland in its continuing fight against British rule over Northern Ireland.
The police, however, uncovered no explosives despite searching garages. The defendants argued that they were merely plotting a hoax with confectioners' sugar masquerading as Semtex explosive in an effort to make the authorities shut down power themselves.
The American, John Crawley, 40, born in New York, was a U.S. Marine from 1975 to 1979 and served time in a Dublin jail on a gun-running charge in the 1980s, according to the Press Association, Britain's domestic news agency.
A key witness in the trial, Lt. Col. John Meuk of the Marines, gave the court details about Crawley's training in reading technical maps and planting bombs in power stations behind enemy lines.
Convicted with Crawley were Donald Gannon, 34, Gerard Hanratty, 38, Robert Morrow, 37, Patrick Martin, 35, and Francis Rafferty, 45.
Acquitted, to the applause of the crowd and to handshakes from the convicted men, were Clive Brampton, 36, a Birmingham businessman, and Martin Murphy, 36.
Murphy, who admitted in court that he was an IRA member, was rearrested outside the courtroom and detained for questioning.
Pub Date: 7/03/97