Military veterans protest against Troubles legal 'witch hunt'

Military veterans have taken part in demonstrations in Belfast against the prosecution of former soldiers accused of crimes that took place during the Troubles.

Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans (JFNIV) alleges that soldiers are being subjected to a legal "witch hunt" because investigations into the Troubles are "disproportionately" focusing on servicemen.

The protest in front of Belfast City Hall was met by a counter-demonstration organised by Saoradh, a hard-line republican group formed with the backing of dissident republican prisoners.

JFNIV also held marches at Horse Guards Parade in London and George Square, Glasgow.

Former British Army officer Doug Beattie MLA told Sky News the JFNIV protest in Belfast was "about balance, fairness and proportionality".

He said: "What we are looking at in the very near future is an historical investigation unit being set up, akin to an international police force, which will take every single killing by the military and reinvestigate it.

"It will not be doing the same for terrorist atrocities. We believe that justice should be balanced and fair."

He added: "The terrorists were responsible for 90% of the killings in Northern Ireland so we feel it needs to be balanced."

Alan Dalgliesh, who served with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, said: "It's a bit of a witch hunt for me.

"You join up (to the Army), take your allegiance and you're doing it for the Government and now they're backtracking and getting folk for their duty."

Saoradh staged its counter protest behind the police line near Belfast City Hall.

Chairman David Jordan told the crowd: "Today's so-called veterans' rally, or imperialist murderers' rally, is the extension of the imperialist agenda to carefully foster divisions in this country."

A group of relatives whose family members were killed by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in 1971 staged a separate silent protest.

Last year, two former soldiers were told they will be prosecuted for murder over the 1972 death of official IRA commander Joe McCann.

In another prominent case, retired soldier Dennis Hutchings is to face trial accused of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm over a fatal shooting in 1974.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland's Legacy Investigation Branch is investigating more than 3,200 killings between 1969 and 2004.

In January, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire warned the unit's investigations were "disproportionately" focusing on the police and Army.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes