Belfast Telegraph

Ex-soldiers protest over Troubles 'witch-hunt' of veterans

By PA Reporters

Hundreds of Army veterans marched in Westminster on Saturday alongside a former soldier facing prosecution over the death of a man during the Troubles.

Dennis Hutchings (76) is due to stand trial on charges linked to the shooting of John Pat Cunningham, a 27-year-old with learning difficulties who was killed in disputed circumstances near Benburb in 1974.

Cornwall man Hutchings is accused of the attempted murder of unarmed Mr Cunningham.

A court has heard that when the victim was shot he was running away from an Army patrol because he had a fear of men in uniform.

Campaign group Justice For Northern Ireland Veterans organised the solidarity march to protest at recent investigations into the conduct of soldiers during the Troubles, which they claim has become a witch-hunt.

The march was met with a counter-demonstration by campaigners carrying placards which read: 'I am John Pat Cunningham'. At points there were verbal clashes.

As the march passed Parliament, Mr Hutchings threw his military medals at the building.

One of the organisers, Alan Barry, said: "If you let terrorists go free from jail, you cannot then go and prosecute the very people who were sent in to fight that dirty war in the first place, and that was us."

Mr Hutchings said: "Today went very well.

"I hope it shows the Government they have to do something about this absolute travesty of justice".

Paul O'Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre, which works with the Cunningham family, said some of those involved in the rally were abusive toward the counter-protesters.

He added: "We're here today to remind people of who the victim was. It was John Pat Cunningham."

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