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Bereaved mothers urge PM to stop 'vicious' legal claims against British troops

Published 19/01/2016

Sergeant Gareth Thursby died in 2012 after being shot by a rogue Afghan policeman
Sergeant Gareth Thursby died in 2012 after being shot by a rogue Afghan policeman

The mothers of four soldiers killed in action have urged David Cameron to put a stop to "vicious" legal claims against British troops.

Members of the armed forces are being "thrown to the wolves", the bereaved women said, describing the lawsuits as "outrageous" and "ridiculous".

In a letter addressed directly to the Prime Minister and published in The Sun newspaper, they called for a halt to what they said was an "immoral witch hunt".

It emerged earlier this month that Iraq War veterans could face prosecution for crimes including murder, as Britain's six-year military mission there is probed.

The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat), a Government-established criminal investigation into murder, abuse and torture claims, had a workload of 1,515 possible victims by September, of whom 280 are alleged to have been unlawfully killed.

Carol Valentine, Helen Perry, Hazel Hunt and Caroline Whitaker all lost their sons - aged between 21 and 29 - during the conflict in Afghanistan.

The women said their sons died bravely serving their country, but added that they were now shocked to see other soldiers being subjected to legal action for doing the same.

In the letter, they say: "The lawyers are trying to use Human Rights loopholes to persecute our own soldiers, but where are the human rights of our troops? We believe it is your job, Prime Minister, to defend their honour and protect them by ceasing these vicious legal actions."

They claim lawsuits now could affect troops on the front line who have to make split-second decisions, and described morale in what they said was once the "finest military organisation in the world" as being at an all-time low.

They said they would go so far as to say their sons may have died in vain, and would advise young people not to sign up to join the forces "because they are treated so shoddily".

Ms Whitaker's son Sergeant Gareth Thursby died in 2012 after being shot by a rogue Afghan policeman in Helmand Province alongside his 18-year-old comrade Thomas Wroe.

She said that, while she had been devastated by her son's murder, she had not pursued his killer.

She asked: "How can we support sending our troops anywhere when we are bombarded with reports of immoral lawyers seeking to exploit the perils of war by turning on those who protect our country?

"Do you see us asking David Cameron or lawyers to take out a prosecution against the Afghan Police for murdering my son and his comrade?"

The letter calls on Mr Cameron to "do the right thing".

It says: "Show us you care by stopping these persecutions because to honour the fallen, you have to support the living."

A British Army sniper is reportedly being investigated by Ihat over the shooting of an Iraqi about to fire a grenade at a base.

The Sun claimed the soldier's actions were being probed because he did not shout a warning before opening fire.

Ihat was unavailable for comment.

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