Northern Ireland

Rally in support of Bloody Sunday soldier

A Union flag and the flag of the parachute regiment are flown at the rally at Belfast City Hall
Image caption A Union flag and the flag of the parachute regiment are flown at the rally at Belfast City Hall

A rally in support of British soldiers facing prosecution for Troubles-related killings has been held at Belfast City Hall.

A couple of hundred people gathered, calling on the UK government to "enact protective legislation" to "safeguard" soldiers and police.

An Army veteran, known as Soldier F, is to be prosecuted for the murder of two men on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Relatives of those killed in Ballymurphy held a counter protest.

John Ross, who served in the Parachute Regiment, told the rally that veterans "must stand together".

"I had the honour on Friday to stand in London and address 10,000 veterans," he said.

"It has taken a long time to get the veteran unity, it is a bit sad that we had to wait for the prosecution of Soldier F before we got real action."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Relatives of those killed in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 held a counter protest

An inquest is currently examining the fatal shootings of 10 people in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in August 1971.

They were shot dead amid disturbances sparked by the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland.

In a statement the families said: "No one is above the law and justice must be served.

"We believe that all families who lost loved ones during the conflict deserve proper, impartial investigations into their deaths and where there is evidence of criminal acts, prosecutions should be made."

Murder charges

Soldier F, is to be prosecuted for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney.

He has also been charged with four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.

Thirteen people were shot dead when soldiers opened fire on marchers during a civil rights march on 30 January 1972.

The sole prosecution is seen as a "terrible disappointment" by some of the families of the 13 people killed.

Separately, last month, former soldier Dennis Hutchings began his appeal to the Supreme Court against a decision to try him in a Diplock Court.

Mr Hutchings is due to be tried for attempted murder in connection with a fatal shooting in County Tyrone in 1974.

John Pat Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties, was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol near Benburb.

Mr Hutchings, 77, has denied charges of attempted murder and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm.

A Diplock Court is a non-jury trial heard by a judge only.

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