A federal magistrate set bail at $25,000 Monday for an Irish activist charged with lying to U.S. immigration officials about a 1985 conviction in Northern Ireland on charges of possessing explosives.
In setting bail for Siobhan O'Hanlon, U.S. Magistrate Charles F. Eick said the Irish national, arrested by FBI agents Thursday in Whittier, has enough ties in Los Angeles County to prevent her from fleeing the country before her trial.
She is charged with failing to disclose the explosives conviction on immigration forms she filled out in New York City last month.
Eick said the nature of the charges "militates heavily against detaining the defendant." He also postponed until Thursday a hearing on whether O'Hanlon's trial will be moved to New York.
The magistrate said much of his decision to grant bail was based on commitments from members of the local Irish-American community to offer their homes as collateral for the bond. At least 10 couples have offered their homes, said immigration attorney Peter Schey.
FBI agents arrested O'Hanlon as she arrived at the Sprinkler Fitters' Union headquarters for a speech to members of the Irish Northern Aid Committee.
O'Hanlon spent two years in prison in Northern Ireland after her 1985 conviction on the explosives charges.
O'Hanlon came to this country last month to speak before the Irish American Unity Conference, a coalition of groups seeking an end to the fighting between the British government and Irish activists in Northern Ireland.
"She came to address the conference and then she traveled around the country," said Imelda Hughes, a member of the Irish Northern Aid Committee and one of the homeowners who offered to put up her house to meet the bond payment. "I know her off and on, but I'm not about to put up my house for anyone who would skip town."
Hughes said O'Hanlon's arrest has galvanized--and angered--many in the local Irish-American community.
"It totally incensed Irish-Americans," she said. "People born in Belfast know they get no justice, but people born here thought they did. (The arrest) came as a big shock to them."
O'Hanlon has spoken in several cities since addressing the Irish American Unity Conference, including San Diego and San Francisco.
O'Hanlon is a volunteer at the Belfast headquarters of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.