A BELFAST solicitor has made a complaint to an independent body which monitors the intelligence services after claims a republican ex-prisoner was unlawfully detained by MI5 last week.
Bernard Fox, who took part in the 1981 Hunger Strike, was allegedly detained by customs officials on Friday January 26 at Belfast International Airport after he returned from a family holiday.
He claimed his wife was asked to wait while he was then questioned by two men who identified themselves as being members of MI5.
His solicitor Ciaran Shiels, from Belfast firm Madden and Finucane, said Mr Fox was “subjected to a series of bizarre questions relating to the peace process and the current political situation”.
“Our client instructs us that whilst being held in an interview room he repeatedly enquired if he was under arrest and that he wanted his solicitor notified and present with him,” Mr Shiels said.
He claimed that when Mr Fox left the room, one of the men attempted to give him a telephone number to contact them in future but Mr Fox refused to accept the number.
He also alleged the registration of the car
Mr Fox was travelling in was noted by police.
Mr Shiels said he had written to the PSNI at Belfast International Airport and had lodged a formal complaint about Mr Fox’s treatment with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal – an independent body which investigates complaints against the intelligence services.
In a letter sent to the tribunal, Mr Shiels said the incident had “caused profound distress and anxiety to our client and his wife”.
“We consider that he was held in circumstances which amount to an unlawful detention,” Mr Shiels said.
“We have requested that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal investigate this incident as a matter of urgency.”
In a written statement, Mr Fox said it was “widely known within the republican community that I do have reservations, like many
others, about the policing issue”.
He insisted he is not a “so-called dissident”, and he said he was worried he would be labelled as such and had concerns about “where this confrontation could lead to”.
MI5 is taking over responsibility for intelligence gathering from the police in Northern Ireland. Responsibility for policing is also due to be devolved to a power-sharing executive next year and the government aims these plans will still go ahead following Sinn Fein’s vote to support the police.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal was set up under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
It exists to investigate complaints against various bodies including the Intelligence Services and law enforcement agencies and to ensure they use their powers correctly.