Two political parties have condemned separate interrogations of their members by unidentified ‘security’ personnel stationed at Belfast Airport.
The detention of members of Sinn Féin Poblachtach and Saoradh took place within days of each other this week. Both parties have raised concerns about the possibly illegal detentions and placed images of those involved on their websites.
On Thursday 14th July, a Newry couple found themselves held against their will at the airport by members of an unidentified agency as they returned from holiday.
The couple, who have suffered repeated British harassment over the years, were held as they flew into the airport.
As they were having their passports scanned a Border Control Officer said that they had been “referred to the back office” and subsequently disappeared with the couple’s passports.
This is believed to have been intended to isolate and intimidate the couple.
“With no answers forthcoming the activists told their captors they could keep the passports and made their way towards the door,” a statement by Saoradh said.
“It was at this stage the two Border Control guards rushed to the door and locked it, ensuring the couple could not leave the room. A heated argument ensued with the couple demanding to be allowed to leave the room as no reason was given for their detention and no legally binding legislation cited.
“After an hour had passed three suited individuals entered the room, approached the couple and attempted to engage them in conversation. We believe these three individuals are connected to PSNI C3 Intelligence Branch, which are directly descended from RUC Special Branch and controlled by MI5.
“These particular operatives have been present during other approaches of Republicans and their families at Belfast International Airport and have also been seen at Musgrave Interrogation Centre by Republicans who have been held there.
Shortly afterwards the activists’ passports were returned and they were allowed on their way, but as they left the airport they were followed by the three operatives along the corridor and as a parting shot one of them quipped “safe home”.
“This could easily be perceived as a threat and given the history of collusion between Special Branch and Loyalist death squads it should be taken as exactly that.”
Days later, a member of RSF was held on his return from a holiday with his young holiday to Disneyland Paris. He was held for almost an hour by seven plain clothes individuals, five of whom were members of an unknown government agency.
The activist was told he had no right to legal representation or to inform anybody of his whereabouts. He refused to enter the interview room and was told that if he did not go into the interview room he would be arrested and held for six hours.
In the end, after repeated refusals to enter the room, the interview was held in the main hallway of the passport control. His wife was threatened with being arrested when she asked what was happening.
A bizarre written interview then took place which lasted 45 minutes. In this interview the agents asked a rambling series of questions, including about his personal finances, his opinions on (Provisional) Sinn Féin and the recent election result.
As well as this he was asked of his opinion on drug dealers in his area and of loyalist paramilitaries and their plans. Double agent Dennis McFadden was also brought up and they “asked his opinion on how it felt when he found out he was working for them.”
A number of questions were also in relation to recently extradited republican, Liam Campbell.
“The detainment of our activist is a clear abuse of power,” RSF said.
“It was done clearly to harass and intimidate this individual and his family further.
“When he commented that this happens every time he flies into Belfast the female officer agent made the comment ‘that he should fly in and out of Dublin’.”