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uvf probe Stephen Matthews arrested by police investigating east Belfast UVF

Searches were also undertaken in Lisburn and other locations in Belfast

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Stephen Matthews

Stephen Matthews

Stephen Matthews

Alleged east Belfast UVF leader Stephen Matthews is one of three people arrested by the PSNI after a so-called "show of strength" in east Belfast earlier in the month, it is understood.

It was reported after the gathering that Matthews was one of the men pictured in the crowd. However, in a statement to the Sunday World last weekend loyalist Jamie Bryson, who represents Matthews, stated “Mr Matthews was not present at the residents’ lawful protest gathering”.

The incident, which police described as a "significant gathering" of men in the Pitt Park area of east Belfast on Tuesday, February 2, has been linked to an ongoing split within the wider UVF.

Yesterday, three men were arrested under the Terrorism Act, and on suspicion of having committed other offences, before being taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite in Belfast for questioning.

Bryson told the Belfast Telegraph earlier: "Regardless of who has been arrested, everyone is entitled to privacy until they are charged."

As the incident unfolded residents in the area sought refuge in a local community centre which later had to close after threats were allegedly made to staff and volunteers, causing disruption to the food parcel service to elderly and vulnerable people the centre provides.

The three arrested, aged 58, 56 and 34 were taken into custody by the PSNI's Criminal Investigation Branch and the Paramilitary Crime Task Force.

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The alleged 'show of strength' in east Belfast earlier this month

The alleged 'show of strength' in east Belfast earlier this month

The alleged 'show of strength' in east Belfast earlier this month

A number of searches were also carried out in Lisburn and in East Belfast.

The footage of the gathering was widely shared on social media causing widespread outrage.

Detective Chief Supt John McVea said: "Our investigation into the gathering at Pitt Park and activities linked to East Belfast UVF is continuing at pace and today's arrests were conducted under the terrorism act.”

He added: "We continue to gather and examine all available evidence in order to determine who was in Pitt Park on 2 February 2021 and I would appeal to anyone in the community who has information or footage regarding the incident or criminality in the area, to contact the police."

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