Friday, 22 March, 2019

British ex-soldier to be charged in Bloody Sunday killings

The civil rights march in Derry on Bloody Sunday The civil rights march in Derry on Bloody Sunday
Patty Aguilar | 14 March, 2019, 20:11

"The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today's decision".

A 14th person died later.

Britain's Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said former personnel could not live "in constant fear of prosecution".

The march had been banned by Northern Ireland's police and the British Army, but organizers wanted a peaceful demonstration, avoiding confrontation at the barricades with the well-armed soldiers.

The Northern Ireland Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Michael Agnew, informed victim's families of the decision at a private meeting this morning.

Following the 2010 public inquiry report which found British troops had fired first at unarmed civil-rights demonstrators in 1972, the first prosecution for murder was announced Thursday against one of the soldiers involved.

He added: "The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet". This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

The then UK Prime Minister David Cameron later apologised for the killings in the House of Commons, in a historic move which many former servicemen in the Bogside that day believed exonerated them.

The victims' families have called for justice, while supporters of the soldiers say it is unfair for them to face charges decades after the events.

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"We would like to remind everyone that no prosecution or if it comes to it no conviction does not mean not guilty, it does not mean that no crime was committed, it does not mean that those soldiers acted in a dignified and appropriate way", Mickey McKinney, brother to one of the victims, told a news conference.

"And the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues".

The families campaigned for prosecutions after the Saville Inquiry found their loved ones were shot without justification.

A short internal military inquiry shortly after Bloody Sunday, known as the Widgery Report, concluded the soldiers had done nothing wrong.

"I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, that this is in no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers".

PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images Families of those died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, towards the Guildhall ahead of the announcement as to whether 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA will be prosecuted in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972.

Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.

But the PPS decisions in respect of potential perjury charges will be announced at a later date.

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