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Sinn Fein’s Adams freed after 5 days in custody

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Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, centre, with party members Bobby Storey, left, and Martina Anderson speak during a protest rally on the Falls Road, West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Saturday, May, 3, 2014. Police continue to question the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at Antrim police station about the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, centre, with party members Bobby Storey, left, and Martina Anderson speak during a protest rally on the Falls Road, West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Saturday, May, 3, 2014. Police continue to question the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at Antrim police station about the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

FILE – In this Thursday Jan. 12, 2012 file photo, Helen McKendry holds a family photograph showing her mother Jean McConcille, at home in Killyleagh, Northern Ireland. Police in Northern Ireland arrested Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday over his alleged involvement in the Irish Republican Army’s 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast widow. Adams, 65, confirmed his own arrest in a prepared statement and described it as a voluntary, prearranged interview. Police long had been expected to question Adams about the killing of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of 10 whom the IRA killed with a single gunshot to the head as an alleged spy. According to all authoritative histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement, Adams served as an IRA commander for decades, but he has always denied holding any position in the outlawed group. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison, file)

Michael McConville, the son of Jean McConville who was murdered by the IRA, speaks to the media at the Wave Trauma centre in Belfast, Thursday, May, 1, 2014. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams is still being questioned by police at Antrim police station after being arrested late Wednesday in connection with the murder of Jean McConville. (AP Photo)

A woman and child make their way past a newly painted mural of Gerry Adams on the Falls Road, West Belfast, Northern Ireland, Friday, May, 2 2014. Police continue to question the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at Antrim police station about the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

FILE- In this Monday, May 31, 1999 file photo, Helen McHendry and husband Seamus find the agonizing wait for the recovery of Helen’s mother all too much as Irish police continue to search for the body of her mother, Jean Mc Conville, in Dundalk, Irish Republic. Police in Northern Ireland arrested Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday over his alleged involvement in the Irish Republican Army’s 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast widow. Adams, 65, confirmed his own arrest in a prepared statement and described it as a voluntary, prearranged interview. Police long had been expected to question Adams about the killing of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of 10 whom the IRA killed with a single gunshot to the head as an alleged spy. According to all authoritative histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement, Adams served as an IRA commander for decades, but he has always denied holding any position in the outlawed group. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison, file)

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BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams was released without charge Sunday after five days of police questioning over his alleged involvement in a decades-old Irish Republican Army killing, an event that has driven a dangerous wedge into Northern Ireland’s unity government.

The 65-year-old’s departure from the police’s main interrogation center in Antrim, west of Belfast, was delayed two hours by a crowd of angry Protestants outside the front gate. The protesters waved Union Jack flags and held placards demanding justice for IRA victims — and roared with fury as a convoy of police armored vehicles came into view.

Dozens of officers — many sporting full riot gear with flame-retardant boiler suits, body armor, helmets and shields — confronted the hardline Protestants, many covering their faces, as they tried to block Adams’ exit by sitting down in the roadway. After a 15-minute standoff, police escorted Adams out via a rear exit that the protesters could not see.

Sinn Fein said Adams intended to hold a press conference in a Belfast hotel within hours.

The investigation of Adams is not over, however, because police said they have sent an evidence file to Northern Ireland prosecutors for potential charges later.

Sinn Fein said detectives questioned Adams about audiotaped interviews that IRA veterans gave to a Boston College oral history project. Some interviewees accused him of being the Belfast IRA commander who ordered the abduction, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville in 1972.

Police faced a Sunday deadline to charge or release Adams or seek a judge’s permission to extend his detention, a step they had already taken once on Friday when an initial deadline was due to expire.

The IRA did not admit responsibility for killing McConville until 1999, when the underground organization defended its action by claiming she had been a British Army spy. Her remains were found accidentally in 2003 near a Republic of Ireland beach. An investigation three years later by Northern Ireland’s police complaints watchdog found no evidence she had been a spy.

Sunday’s outcome — freedom but no official exoneration, with evidence bound for the Public Prosecution Service — suggested police do believe Adams was an IRA commander, but do not have strong enough evidence to charge him with this. Police last charged Adams with IRA membership in 1978 following a firebomb attack on a hotel near Belfast that killed 12 Protestants, but those charges were dropped.

British state prosecutors in Belfast would provide a second opinion. They could tell police either that no case could succeed based on existing evidence, recommend new avenues of investigation to strengthen the chances of a successful prosecution, or determine that charges should be filed. Typically however, when such evidence files

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