The refusal of police to release photographs of four IRA men on the run after admitting the kidnapping of Bobby Tohill, right, has led to suspicions of a deal between the government and the Provisional IRA.
The four west Belfast men jumped bail four months ago days before they expected to receive lengthy sentences for the abduction of the dissident republican.
When they disappeared the Sinn Féin leadership made an unprecedented statement calling on the men to hand themselves in.
However, detectives have failed to track them down since they went missing on May 5.
And a leading politicians now suspects that a deal has been done to "appease" the republican movement.
The arrests of Gerard McCrory (34), of Dermott Hill Road, Harry Fitzsimmons (36), of Spamount Street, Liam Rainey (32), of New Barnsley Crescent and Thomas Tolan (34), of Ballymurphy Parade led to serious difficulties in the peace process.
They were held in Belfast city centre in February 2004 when police stopped a van at the Millfield junction with the Falls Road.
Inside the vehicle was Tohill who had been abducted from a nearby bar and badly beaten.
The four were arrested at the scene, where they were captured on CCTV wearing boiler suits and wielding cudgels.
Chief Constable Hugh Orde said the kidnapping had been an IRA operation and Tohill also blamed republicans, although he has said he does not want his attackers jailed.
Last December the men admitted kidnapping Tohill and were bailed while awaiting sentencing in May.
Police have repeated their previous insistence that they have been "consistently forthright" in their assessment of the case, despite criticism that there is no evidence of a proactive hunt for the men.
SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said the failure of the police to catch the men raised "suspicion that some sort of a deal has been done in order to appease the provisional republican movement".
"My initial thought was that the police knew who these people were and they were just waiting for an opportunity to scoop them," he said.
"But now, given the serious length of time that these men have not been apprehended it gives rise to great concern that police have not been proactive in arresting these men or making serious efforts to do so.
"There has been no attempt even to give descriptions or issue photographs or other means of identifying these men."
A police spokeswoman said: "Efforts to locate the four are ongoing and police will continue to take the most appropriate action deemed necessary to execute those warrants."