Ex-hunger striker complains over M15

Mon, Jan 29, 2007, 00:00

A formal complaint against MI5 officers who detained a republican ex-prisoner at Belfast International Airport was tonight made to a tribunal set up to monitor the activities of the Intelligence Services.

Solicitors acting for IRA Maze Prison hunger striker Bernard Fox lodged the complaint over his treatment with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

Madden & Finucane said Mr Fox was detained at the airport by customs officials while returning from a family holiday last Friday before being questioned by two individuals who identified themselves as being members of MI5.

They 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 whist 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," said Madden & Finucane.

They added that when Mr Fox said he was leaving the interview room the MI5 officers attempted to give him a telephone number on which he could contact them and as he left the terminal the registration number of the car he was travelling in was noted by police.

His solicitor Ciaran Shiels said the practice had written to the Police Service of Northern Ireland at the airport and lodged a formal complaint with the tribunal.

"We consider that he was held in circumstances which amount to unlawful detention. We have requested that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal investigate this incident as a matter of urgency."

MI5 is taking over responsibility for intelligence gathering from the police in Northern Ireland just as responsibility for policing is due to be devolved to a local power-sharing executive next year under plans which the Government hopes will now go ahead following Sinn Fein's vote at the weekend 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.