Republican News · Thursday 5 October 1999

[An Phoblacht]

British soldiers hold flats resident at gunpoint

A 30 year old resident of the Divis Tower in the Lower Falls in West Belfast was held at gunpoint by British soldiers on Staurday 23 September.

The incident happened in the early hours of the Saturday morning as resident Christie Robinson, who suffers from a heart and lung complaint, returned home from a night out.

Robinson called a lift but none came as the British soldiers in the post on the roof of the Tower Block and who have control over the lift, held it.

Christie told An Phoblacht that he knew, ``the Brits on the roof were holding the lift as it was working earlier on''. After about 15 minutes, when three British army vehicles arrived and as the soldiers came into the flats to change the guard, the lift came down.

Said Christie, ``I knew the lift would be down to pick up these Brits so I jumped in when the door opened''.

Usually the British soldiers on the roof send one of their men down with the lift to make sure none of the residents use it and when Christie jumped in a soldier ordered him out. ``Of course I told him where to get off'', said Christie.

The other crown forces also gathered at the lift and an officer ordered two with rifles into the lift where they trained their weapons on Christie.

``They were abusive and at one point they threatned to `manhandle' me out. I thought they were going to give me a kicking they were that excited'', he said, ``but the concierge came on the scene and I think this made them think twice''.

The British soldiers soon changed their tune, however, when the concierge told the RUC who arrived on the scene, that the lift and been held for 15 minutes before the change of guard.

A British soldier also admitted to the RUC that they, ``had made a mistake'' and so the RUC allowed Chrisitie to go home unhindered.

John Leatham who is chair of the tenents association in the Tower Block arrived on the scene just after Christie left and while he was there the British army tried to prevent other residents going home.

``The problem with the lifts is worse because one of the lifts is being refurbished and in the last week the British Army have been in the flats daily, sometimes on numerous occasions for up to an hour at a time. They also arrive in in the early hours of the morning and hang about for ages. On Wednsday a woman who works as a home help for some of the pensioners, had to carry shopping up 14 floors because the Brits were blocking the lift. It is a disgrace and it is all about harassment'', said Leatham.

In a statement Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann said that ``the residents of Divis Tower have no peace because of the antics of the British army and it is about time they were out of the flats altogethe

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