05:29 GMT25 January 2021
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    On 30 January 1972 soldiers from the British Parachute Regiment opened fire on Irish Catholic civil rights demonstrators in the Bogside district of Londonderry, the second biggest city in Northern Ireland, killing 13 people.

    Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service says only one of 17 former British Army soldiers should face trial in connection with the deaths on Bloody Sunday.

    Soldier F, who is believed to be in his 60s, will face prosecution for the murders of Jim Wray, 22, and William McKinney, 27, and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

    Seventeen soldiers were under investigation. An 18th soldier died last year.

    There was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for the other 16 former soldiers, the Public Prosecution Service said.

    The families of the victims issued a statement in which they said they were "disappointed" by the decision to only prosecute one soldier.

    Defence Minister Gavin Williamson said the British government would offer full legal support to Soldier F.   

    "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. The government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution," Mr. Williamson said.

    The Police Service of Northern Ireland reopened the investigation in 2015 and prosecutors weighed up 125,000 pages of material about the controversial incident.

    They also considered whether to prosecute two former members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for their role on the day, one of the seminal events during "The Troubles".

    "We are disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial," said Ciaran Shiels, a solicitor for a number of the relatives.

    "We will give detailed consideration to the reasons provided for decisions not to prosecute the other soldiers, with a view to making further submissions to the Prosecution Service and we shall ultimately challenge in the High Court, by way of judicial review, any prosecutorial decision that does not withstand scrutiny," Mr. Shiels added.

    During the two public inquiries into the events of January 1972 several former soldiers said they only fired after come under attack from IRA snipers.

    Thirteen people died on the day — including Jackie Duddy, Michael Kelly, Hugh Gilmour, John Young, Gerard Donaghy and Kevin McElhinney, who were all 17 — while John Johnston, 59, died six months later.

    The Saville Inquiry, which cost £200 million, concluded in 2010 the killings were unjustified.

    The incoming British Prime Minister David Cameron then issued a formal apology for the killings, calling them "unjustified and unjustifiable."

    A public inquiry found British troops fired first and gave misleading accounts of the events.

    The British government said on Wednesday, 13 March, veterans found guilty of crimes during the Troubles would be eligible for early release under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

    ​Around 500 republican and loyalist paramilitaries left prison early as a result of the agreement, which ended The Troubles.

    Northern Ireland minister Karen Bradley was heavily criticized last week when she killings by British security forces and police during The Troubles "were not crimes."

    "They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way," she told Parliament, infuriating the relatives of victims in many Irish republican communities.

    ​Lord Saville's 5,000-page report made it clear none of those who died "posed a threat of causing death or serious injury" and soldiers had simply panicked and lost their self-control.

    Soldier F's trial is expected to be before a so-called Diplock court, a no-jury trial introduced in Northern Ireland in 1972 in an attempt to prevent intimidation of jurors by terrorist groups. 

    Last year Alan Barry, a former British soldier, told Sputnik why he thought it was unjust to take action against service personnel during The Troubles.

    ​"No British soldier left his barracks with an intention of killing innocent civilians. We were there to protect civilians from the terrorists who preyed upon them. The IRA had no prison camp, the only prison camp they had was the graveyard," Mr. Barry told Sputnik.

    Bloody Sunday was a major turning point during The Troubles and anger at the injustice of it led to hundreds of young Catholics joining the IRA.

    The Provisional IRA later broke away from the Official IRA and began a bloody campaign of bombings and assassinations of off-duty police officers and soldiers which only ended in 1994.


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    catholics, Bloody Sunday, British Army, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
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