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Loyalist pipebomb pastor may be heading back to jail after going to Ukraine to fight Putin

Ex-terrorist broke law in fighting against Putin in Ukraine, according to claims

Pastor Clifford Peeples in Ukraine cradling a high-powered machine-gun

Hugh JordanSunday World

Ulster’s pipe-bomb pastor Clifford Peeples may be heading back to jail sooner than he thought, the Sunday World can reveal.

A former loyalist paramilitary boss who spent five years in the Maze Prison, Peeples was pictured last week in Ukraine wearing military fatigues and brandishing a machine-gun.

The Shankill Road man was on a four-week stint to the war-torn country, where he helped the Ukraine army face down President Putin’s men.

And he was also snapped distributing much-needed aid to war-weary and starving families in the former Soviet satellite state.

But we have been told the PSNI is currently probing a 150-year-old law to see if the once-suspected Orange Volunteers leader has broken it.

According to legal experts, Section 4 of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 makes it an offence for a UK citizen to enlist in the military of a foreign state at war with another foreign state with which the UK is at peace.

And when we contacted the PSNI, a spokesperson said the police were aware of Peeples’ trip to Ukraine and that “inquiries were continuing”.

But when we tracked down Pastor Peeples in Belfast this week, he told us any police officer who approached him would be “sent away with a flea in his ear”.

A recently qualified Master in Law at Queen’s University, Pastor Peeples said he was actually looking forward to debating the finer points of military law with what he called “one of Simon Byrne’s lackeys”.

“Those boys better get their facts right before they speak to me,” Peeples said.

Pipe Bomb Pastor - Clifford Peeples handing out much needed goods to the people of Ukraine.

Earlier this week Peeples returned to the Shankill, where he was hailed like a homecoming hero.

A woman told us: “Clifford was in a shop to buy gas after he got home and he was mobbed by well-wishers asking him about Ukraine.”

But when we caught up with him near his home in Glencairn, he was in no mood for small talk. He insisted the PSNI Chief Constable had better do his homework before trying to drag him before the courts.

“Do Simon Byrne’s lads even know this law was introduced to prevent people joining foreign armies during the Napoleonic Wars?

“Does he know that the men who went to fight for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War did so illegally?

“And the last time this law was used successfully was in 1890. Yes, Byrne will have his work cut out if he wants to prosecute me.

“During her short stint as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss told the House of Commons how much she admired those who took up arms on behalf of Ukraine.

“And as I told you last week, I went to Ukraine to help my fellow Christians in their hour of need,” said Peeples.

He added: “I think I’m on safe ground as far as Simon Byrne’s boys go.”

Last week, exiled loyalist Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair voiced support for Peeples. It is believed the pair met while serving sentences on the loyalist wing of the Maze Prison.

Adair claimed: “Clifford stood up for his Christian beliefs by supporting the people of Ukraine.”

Shankill Road-born Peeples has been a controversial figure for many years.

A fundamentalist preacher who ran his own Gospel Hall, he hit the headlines in October 1989 when a car he was driving was stopped by the RUC on the M1 Motorway near Dungannon.

A search of the vehicle revealed a pipe bomb and two grenades were hidden inside.

He was jailed for 10 years and trial judge Mr Justice Gillen told him he was “a menace to society”.

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