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Convict in N. Ireland killing back in jail after deportation

A day after being extradited from the United States, Joseph Doherty was returned Thursday to the same jail he broke out of 11 years ago while standing trial for the IRA killing of a British officer.

Irish Republican Army supporters angered by his deportation threw firebombs at police and set a car ablaze Wednesday night in Belfast's New Lodge area where Doherty, whose name is pronounced DOCK-er-tee, once lived.

The extradition on Wednesday of Doherty caused an uproar among his supporters on both sides of the Atlantic. The 37-year-old had waged a nine-year legal fight for political asylum in the United States.

His U.S. supporters, their appeal for his asylum rejected by the Supreme Court last month, on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of sacrificing justice for good relations with Britain.

"When it comes to Ireland, American policy is made in London, not at the State Department," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., one of 132 members of Congress who asked for an asylum hearing.

But Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke, the British Cabinet member responsible for the province, told reporters: "He is a convicted murderer. I am very glad he is coming back to serve his sentence." Doherty was convicted of murder in absentia and sentenced to life in prison.

Doherty says he has resigned from the IRA, which is fighting to end British rule of Northern Ireland and to unite the province with the Irish Republic.

But in an interview with the Associated Press in February 1990, he indicated he still supported the organization but advocated a cease-fire.

He sought political asylum on the ground that at the time he was accused of the British soldier's killing, he considered himself a soldier fighting a war to oust an occupying force.

Escorted by U.S. officials, Doherty was spirited from federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., on Wednesday and flown to Britain, said a U.S. law enforcement source speaking on condition of anonymity.

He was taken before dawn Thursday to Belfast's Crumlin Road jail. He escaped from there with seven other inmates in 1981.

When he broke out of jail, he was on trial for the murder of Capt. Herbert Westmacott, a member of the Special Air Service regiment, a British Army commando unit.

Westmacott died in a firefight between British troops and Doherty's four-man IRA unit, which had taken over a house in west Belfast in May 1980 to set up an ambush of army units.

When Doherty was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing Westmacott, the judge recommended he spend at least 30 years behind bars.

In 1982, Doherty fled to New York, where he was arrested in 1983. It was not known if the time he spent in jail in the United States while his appeals were heard would be deducted from the time he must serve in Northern Ireland.

The British government's Northern Ireland Office said Brooke and the Sentence Review Board would decide that later.

The Crumlin Road jail has been immersed in the tensions of Northern Ireland.

Catholics and Protestants have feuded for two years in "the Crum," a 19th-century building that houses 480 prisoners. Among the 200 people awaiting trial on terrorist charges, republicans fighting British rule outnumber loyalists about 2-to-1.

On Nov. 24, a bomb planted by the IRA killed two pro-British loyalist prisoners and wounded seven. There have been fights between prisoners from both sides of the conflict in the visiting areas.