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British soldiers 'facing charges' over Bloody Sunday shootings

Prosecutors are considering charging 18 British soldiers over involvement in the Bloody Sunday shootings in Northern Ireland, a relative has said.

Thirteen people died when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on Civil Rights demonstrators in Londonderry in 1972.

A fourteenth person died later.

John Kelly's brother Michael was among those killed and he met prosecutors recently.

He said: "The Public Prosecution Service is investigating 18 soldiers."

All those killed were later pronounced innocent by a public inquiry led by Lord Saville, and then-prime minister David Cameron said the killings were unjustified and unjustifiable.

Mr Kelly was 23 when 17-year-old Michael died.

He still has a Mars bar his mother had bought for his brother.

"He never got a chance to eat the Mars bar," Mr Kelly said.

The soldiers have been referred to by letters of the alphabet allocated to them at the time of the Saville Inquiry.

Mr Kelly said: "I do believe I will see F again."

Prosecution of soldiers from Northern Ireland's 30-year conflict has attracted criticism in some quarters from those opposed to dragging elderly ex-servicemen through the courts.

Mr Kelly said nearly all the Bloody Sunday relatives supported prosecutions.

Earlier this year a pro-military rally was organised by Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans (JFNIV) to highlight what it alleges is a legal witch-hunt against former security members who served during the Troubles.

The campaign group, which formed in response to a number of recent prosecutions of former soldiers in relation to incidents during the region's sectarian conflict, held similar rallies in London and Glasgow.

Prosecutors in Northern Ireland have pursued five times more prosecutions against alleged paramilitaries than soldiers in the last five years, the PPS has disclosed.

One third of cases which the director of public prosecutions has referred to police to investigate relate to Troubles incidents involving security force members.

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) Legacy Investigation Branch, said: "We can confirm a report has now been submitted to the PPS for consideration.

"The families have been informed of this development."

Democratic Unionist General Election candidate in East Londonderry Gregory Campbell said 90% of the deaths in the Troubles were by paramilitaries yet the balance of investigations is disproportionately against former police officers and soldiers.

"Such a one-sided approach only serves those who want to re-write the past.

"Those who foolishly welcomed the revised Saville Report and thought that was the end of the matter have now had their answer.

"As I said at the time, it would not be the end of the matter."

A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) spokesman said: "Investigation files in relation to Bloody Sunday were passed to the PPS in December 2016 and are presently under active consideration.

"No prosecution decision has yet been taken in relation to these files and it is likely to be some time before any decision will issue.

"We have recently made contact with families to provide an update on progress and also to explain our role and some of the legal issues that require consideration in this case."

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