By Eamon Sweeney
A man has accused the PSNI of continual harassment because he has refused to work for either them or the British Secret Service as an informer against dissident republicans.
Earlier this year, Dermot Burke who lives in the townland of Drum in north Derry was acquitted of charges arising a search of outbuildings at his home, then in Dungiven, in July 2013.
During the search police seized a single-barrelled shotgun, a Webley revolver and articles for use in terrorism-namely six pick axe handles, a sledgehammer, an iron bar, balaclavas, improvised face masks, three imitation firearms and a blank calibre cartridge.
However, despite being cleared at Belfast Crown Court of the alleged offences Mr Burke has told the County Derry Post that he and members of his family are being stopped and searched on a regular basis. He also said that he was arrested whilst on holiday in Spain and interviewed by members of MI5 who repeatedly attempted to recruit him as an informer.
“The story is that this has been going on for five years harassment from MI5 who tried to get me to work for them. They dragged me through the courts because they found a couple of antique guns, balaclavas and pick shafts.
“I was being harassed before that, but after the court case, which ended about six months ago, I thought it would die a death. But since that I am still being harassed.
“Now they are bringing it to my familly. My house has been raided and they take computer stuff away,” he said.
According to a warrant shown to the County Derry Post, the latest search at the Burke’s home was carried out on September 21.
The document states that the PSNI Serious Crime Branch were authorised to search the house for materials likely to be “of substantial value to their terrorist investigations and it is necessary to seize them to prevent them being concealed, lost, damaged, altered or destroyed.”
The items listed for seizure on the warrant included mobile phones, SIM cards, Media storage devices, Information relating to the identity of police officers, Information pertaining to the IRA and components for IED’s (improvised explosive devices).
Mr Burke says the police activity is having an adverse effect on his family.
“It’s not good at the minute because they took my sons stuff this time and his work is on it. He is studying nursing. The wife asked them not to take his computer.
“I am not into computers. I couldn’t even open a computer. They took it and said ‘you’ll get it back’.
“But, we’ve been waiting five years on other stuff being returned and have got nothing back. They took my work stuff again and they have every time.”
Asked why he believes the PSNI are carrying out this action against him, Dermot Burke continued: “It’s because I didn’t work for these boys and they told me that if I didn’t work for them they’d harass me for the rest of my life.
“Within the last three months they’ve stopped and searched me at least 20 times. Also. My young boy went out in my van three or four weeks ago and got the length of Derry when they stopped him and pointed guns in the window of the van at him. This young lad is innocent-we are all innocent.
“They are picking on me because of who my friends are and because I didn’t work for them.
“I was arrested at the airport in Palma under the Terrorism Act but they didn’t charge me. They took me to a jail there and MI5 were waiting for me. It was around their seventh approach to me in the last five years.
“I kept telling them they were following the wrong boy. It’s also probably because I would lift money and sell tickets to help prisoners. It may be something to do with that and people I’d be friendly with.
“In the last search, they wrecked my home over six hours. They ransacked it. So instead of getting better the harassment is getting worse.”
Sinn Fein Councillor for the area, Sean McGlinchey told the County Derry Post: “I’ve known this family for a number of years and I’m close friends with them.
“Dermot son’s work is on the laptop that was seized. You’d think that a day’s serach would do it and then it would be returned.
“There again, I am still waiting on my own stuff back when I was arrested four years ago. This young lads career is at stake. They are victimising him and this family and that’s totally wrong.
“This is only isolating the community from the police. There’s no need for it. If they want to interview Dermot that’s one thing, but going into his house is totally unacceptable.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI told the County Derry Post: "We do not comment on intelligence matters and no inference should be drawn from this.
"However, in line with all other police services across the UK the PSNI's policy in relation to the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources is strictly governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and is fully compliant with Human Rights legislation.
"Anyone with a complaint to make regarding police action should contact the Police Ombudsman."
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