Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams remained in police custody for a second day on Thursday as detectives questioned him over his alleged role in the Irish Republican Army’s abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast mother of 10 in 1972.
Senior politicians in Mr. Adams’ Irish nationalist party said they hoped he would be released soon without charge and accused British authorities of timing Wednesday’s arrest to undermine Sinn Fein’s campaigning in elections taking place in both parts of Ireland later this month.
Under Northern Ireland’s anti-terrorist law Mr. Adams can be held until Friday night, by which time police must release or charge him, or seek a judicial extension to his custody.
Parvathi Menon reports from London
Gerard “Gerry” Adams, Irish republican politician and president of the Sinn Fein political party, was arrested on April 30 by the Northern Ireland police in connection with the murder of a 37-year-old woman by the Irish Republican Army in 1972.
Jean McConville, a mother of 10 children, was abducted from her flat, shot in the head and buried around 50 miles from her home. A Protestant married to a Roman Catholic, she was suspected by the IRA of being an informer. She became one of the “disappeared” during the Troubles (the 30-year period of violent conflict over the political status of Northern Island), and her remains were found only in 2003.
Although the IRA’s responsibility for her murder has been well established, Mr. Adams has always denied the charge that the order came from him.
In a statement at his arrest, he said: “While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA, and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville.”
Information on Mr. Adams’ alleged involvement with the McConville murder strangely came from beyond the grave through the testimonies of former republican associates.
Researchers at Boston College had interviewed dozens of former IRA members from 2001 and 2006 in an oral history project called the Belfast Project. The interviewees spoke freely and for the first time spoke of the activities and internal policies of the organisation, on the assurance that their testimonies would only be published after their deaths.
Though placed under lock and key at the Burns Library in Boston, the college authorities were forced to release some of the documents last year to the police of Northern Ireland who had taken the issue to court.
The republican leader’s arrest was the result of the testimony to the Belfast Project by the late Brendan Hughes, a former comrade of Mr. Adams and a leading IRA man. He claimed that the order to kill Ms. McConville came directly from Mr. Adams.
The Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has called the timing of the arrest, which comes just prior to the elections to the European Parliament, “politically motivated and designed to damage Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin.”