One British soldier facing charges for Bloody Sunday shootings that killed 14
A former British soldier faces six charges, including two counts of murder, in connection with the deaths of 14 civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago, during the 1972 massacre known as Bloody Sunday.
The shootings marked the height of a violent period known as “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, where Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups clashed over British control of the country. More than 3,700 people were killed over several decades of violence, which ended with the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998.
The former soldier, identified only as “soldier F” of the Parachute Regiment’s 1st battalion, will be charged for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe McMahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
British troops opened fire on protesters participating in an unauthorized march in Bogside, a nationalist area of Londonderry, on Jan. 30, 1972. Thirteen people were killed, 14 were wounded and one of the wounded later died. The victims were all unarmed Catholics. Six of them were 17 years old.
Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service declined to charge another 16 former soldiers from the same battalion, citing insufficient evidence.
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The charges follow a decade-long investigation that concluded the soldiers killed unarmed demonstrators. However, the results of the inquiry that concluded in 2010 could not be used in any prosecution, and Thursday’s charges resulted from a separate police investigation into the incident.
“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,” Stephen Herron, the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland, said as he announced the charges. “We recognize the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today.”
The victims’ families have called for justice, while supporters of the soldiers say it’s unfair for them to face charges decades after the events.
Several of the victims’ families hailed the charges as “vindication” in a statement issued on Thursday.
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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