London (AFP)

Two men were released on bail Friday by a Northern Irish judge after being charged with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot and killed by Republican dissidents during clashes with police in Northern Ireland in 2019.

At a court hearing in Londonderry where they appeared via video conference, Gearoid Cavanagh, 33, and Jordan Devine, 21, were accused of being with the gunman when the 29-year-old journalist was shot and killed April 18, in the Catholic district of Creggan, in this town near the Irish border.

According to the prosecution representative, Gearoid Cavanagh escorted the gunman when he took up his position at around 11:00 p.m. that day, and Jordan Devine encouraged him when he fired, then helping him put away his equipment.

The defendants' lawyers stressed the weakness of the evidence, the defender of Gearoid Cavanagh believing that the images used by the police did not make it possible to identify his client.

Arrested on Wednesday by police, the two men were also charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger the lives of others, participation in a riot, possession of Molotov cocktails and arson.

A third man, 20, has been charged with possession of Molotov cocktails and participating in a riot, while another, 19, has been released.

A new hearing is scheduled for October 7.

The four men were arrested Wednesday in Londonderry (Derry for Irish nationalists).

The investigation had already resulted in the indictment for murder in mid-February 2020 of a suspect in his 50s, Paul McIntyre.

According to his lawyer, he was implicated after picking up the casings of the bullet linked to the murder, but is not the shooter.

The murder weapon had been found and identified in mid-June.

Then in July 2020, a 27-year-old man was charged with gun law violations.

A Republican dissident group, the New IRA, had admitted responsibility for the journalist's death, in a statement to The Irish News, arguing that she "stood beside enemy forces" in reference to the police force.

The group had sent "its sincere and whole apologies" to its relatives.

The death of Lyra McKee had caused great emotion, rekindling the memory of the "Troubles" which tore the British province of Northern Ireland apart for three decades.

This violence between nationalist republicans (especially Catholics), supporters of the reunification of Ireland, and unionist loyalists (mostly Protestants), defenders of retention in the British Crown, involving the British army, left some 3,500 dead before taking ended thanks to the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement.

"The tragic murder of Lyra McKee was a reminder that a small minority of individuals continue to want to harm communities," responded the British Minister for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, welcoming the new developments of the investigation.

© 2021 AFP