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10 October 2002 Edition

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Airport ordeal for Tyrone man

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty says the weekend ordeal endured by Glenelly man Kevin Devine and a fellow businessman at the hands of Special Branch at Gatwick Airport is evidence, if evidence were needed, of the relentless attempts by securocrats to gather intelligence against the nationalist community.

"Kevin Devine is a self-employed sculptor from Plumbridge," Doherty explained. "His work mainly involves making graveyard headstones. On Wednesday, he and a colleague involved in the same line of work from Derry set out to attend a headstone exhibition in Italy.

"They flew from Belfast to Gatwick. Before boarding their connecting flight to Italy at Gatwick, they were quizzed at length by airport police about the purpose of their visit.

"On boarding the plane, they were told that they had to move seats. Another man, who acted strangely throughout the flight and displayed an undue interest in both men, took one of the seats originally allocated to them.

"The men's suspicions were further aroused when they saw this same man at the headstone exhibition. Both men now believe that they were being followed. Once they arrived back at Gatwick on Saturday evening, they were surrounded by six Special Branch officers, who separated them and took them away for questioning.

"Kevin says he was taken to a separate building in an unmarked car and questioned at length. Initially, he was asked every question possible about intimate family and work details. He was then questioned about his political opinions, including about what Kevin knew about republicans in the Glenelly, Strabane and Derry areas. Kevin was eventually released when they realised he was not willing to play ball. His Derry colleague, who was subjected to the same line of questioning, was also eventually released.

"Kevin is extremely angry at his treatment at the hands of Special Branch. He has been in contact with his solicitor to have an official compliant lodged."

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