Derry’s battle for justice as it marks anniversary

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Ahead of the anniversary of the British Army’s massacre of 14 civil rights demonstrators in Derry, families say they will fight “tooth and nail” to prevent the only Bloody Sunday murder case from being moved out of the city.

Michael McKinney, whose brother, William was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said his family would not allow his brother to be treated differently from any other victim.

Mr McKinney was speaking after district judge, Barney McElholm suggested the case of ‘Soldier F’ be moved to Belfast. The former paratrooper is facing two murder charges in connection with the 1972 killings. He is to be charged with the murder of William McKinney and Jim Wray as well as four counts of attempted murder.

A month-long hearing to decide whether to send the accused to trial and to assess the evidence against him is due to be held. At a preliminary hearing in Derry – at which Soldier F was again not present – the judge said the case may have to be moved out of Derry for a better venue.

District Judge McElholm said Derry’s courthouse was limited in terms of size and acoustics. “We cannot convene this in just some hall or public space. There are considerations of security,” he said.

Lawyer for the Bloody Sunday families, Ciaran Shiels said the case should be heard in Derry.

Mr Shiels said: “This is where the killings occurred, a stone’s throw from these buildings. We have always been of the view that F should be attending here in person at his committal and that remains the position.”

The families are also opposing moves to continue anonymity for Soldier F. Mr Shiels said he has been informed that if they Soldier F wished to maintain his anonymity, his lawyers should set out in detail the legal justification.

The Bloody Sunday families have two weeks to make submissions challenging the decision to move the hearings to Belfast. The case has been adjourned until February 7.

In the interim, the annual Bloody Sunday justice march and commemorative events will take place, under the heading “an injustice to one is an injustice to all”. A calendar of events is still being finalised -- see bloodysundaymarch.org for details.

But in a related development, there are concerns that a loyalist/fascist group may attempt to confront a Bloody Sunday memorial march in Glasgow this weekend.

It comes just months afte the far-right group attempted to attack republican groups on three separate occasions late last year.

The West of Scotland Band Alliance is due to hold an event in Glasgow on Saturday morning in a commemorative march, and hundreds of people are set to take part from 11.30am. A Facebook event set up by the National Defence League (NDL) has called for “all loyalists” to disrupt the parade.

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