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Northern Ireland police given more time to question Gerry Adams

By Laura Smith-Spark and Atika Shubert, CNN
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Judge gives police more time to quiz Gerry Adams
  • He is being questioned in connection with a 1972 abduction and killing
  • Adams denies any role in the death of McConville, a widowed mother of 10
  • Deputy first minister of Northern Ireland says Adams' arrest is politically motivated

Antrim, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- A judge Friday granted police in Northern Ireland permission to hold and question Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for another two days, authorities said.

Adams surrendered himself for questioning Wednesday evening in connection with the 1972 abduction and killing of a mother of 10 by the Irish Republican Army.

Under UK law, the police would have had to release him from Antrim police station Friday evening if a court hadn't granted the extension.

Adams has long denied having any role in the death of Jean McConville, a widow who was reportedly killed by the IRA because the group believed she was a spy for the British army.

His arrest threatens the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, a peace Adams is in part credited with bringing about after decades of sectarian tensions.

Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness said Thursday in Belfast that Adams' arrest was unnecessary, unjustified and politically motivated.

Sinn Fein leader arrested
Gerry Adams questioned by police

He said that he had seen the "dark side" of Northern Ireland policing "flex its muscles in the course of the past couple of days" and that the arrest was a "'deliberate attempt to influence the elections that are due to take place in three weeks' time."

McGuinness said he was confident that Adams would be able to rejoin election campaigning shortly and would "continue to lead our party in a very positive way."

The head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland insisted that the police would "conduct a thorough and professional investigation into the murder of Jean McConville," according to a statement from the force Thursday.

"This will be subject to the full rigors of scrutiny provided in the criminal justice system," the statement said.

McConville's family welcomed news of Adams' arrest.

Her daughter, Helen McKendry, said, "I can only do like everyone else in my case and hope that he will be brought to a court of law and be charged with my mother's murder, so my family can get truth and justice for my mother."

In a statement released shortly before Adams surrendered himself for questioning Wednesday, the 65-year-old vehemently denied any involvement in the killing.

"I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice," Adams said in the statement posted on his party website. "Malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these."

The questioning of Adams was not unexpected. Adams said he told authorities last month that he was willing to meet with investigators.

"While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville," Adams said.

Long associated with the IRA, once considered the armed wing of Sinn Fein, Adams is a prominent Catholic politician who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland. Today, Sinn Fein is Ireland's second-largest opposition party.

A number of other people have been arrested and questioned in connection with the investigation into McConville's abduction and killing.

One man has been charged with aiding and abetting the crime. He denies wrongdoing.

The IRA admitted in 1999 to killing a number of people who have become known as "The Disappeared," those who vanished during the so-called Troubles, a 30-year conflict between Protestant loyalists who wanted to stay part of the United Kingdom and and Catholic nationalists who wanted to see the north united with Ireland.

Among the victims was McConville, 37, whose remains were found partially buried on a beach in County Louth in 2003. She died of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Arrest praised by murder victim's family

Adams arrested for questioning over 1972 IRA slaying

CNN's Atika Shubert reported from Antrim and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported from London. CNN's Chelsea J. Carter and journalist Peter Taggart contributed to this report.

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