Belfast Telegraph

Army 'mutiny' threat over prosecution of ex-soldiers

'Abhorrent process': Johnny Mercer
'Abhorrent process': Johnny Mercer
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Soldiers could "strike" over what they claim is a witch-hunt against Troubles veterans, it has been claimed.

The warning comes as a petition with more than 146,000 signatures demanding immunity for ex-troops who served here is to be debated in Parliament shortly.

It follows the decision to prosecute 'Soldier F' for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney on Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

He is also facing prosecution for the attempted murders of four others.

Now in his 70s, he is the only former soldier charged over the massacre of 14 civil rights demonstrators.

The Saville Inquiry found that all the victims of that day were innocent and died after the Parachute Regiment lost control.

Following the ruling in 2010, then Prime Minister David Cameron issued a state apology in the House of Commons, describing the killings as "unjustified and unjustifiable".

According to senior officials within the Ministry of Defence quoted by the Sunday Express, soldiers may now "hesitate while carrying out their lawful duties while deployed in military operations unless a resolution is found".

Last month three former soldiers who served here returned their medals to the Prime Minister in protest of the decision to prosecute Soldier F.

They included 23 white feathers each attached to a miniature version of their medals and addressed to each member of the Cabinet.

Last week Conservative MP Johnny Mercer told Theresa May he would no longer support the Government in the Commons unless the prosecutions end.

The former Army officer said he found the investigations into allegations, some dating back decades, "personally offensive".

He said he was not prepared to vote for Government legislation, except on Brexit, until there were "clear and concrete steps" to end the "abhorrent process".

The latest move concerning serving soldiers comes amid reports that the Government could publish its response to the public consultation on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles as early as this week.

The Government received more than 17,000 responses to its Stormont House Agreement consultation on dealing with the past, which closed last October after five months.

A report will conclude that an "overwhelming majority" of those who responded to the consultation do not support an amnesty or a statute of limitations for troops and terrorists, sources told the Daily Mail.

It will say that, instead, there is "broad support" for proposals set out by ministers, which include a new body to examine 1,700 deaths during the Troubles from as far back as 1968.

Under the proposals, the new Historical Investigations Unit will have policing powers and aim to complete its work within five years.

Such a move would spark a rebellion from as many as 100 Tory MPs, who have warned the Attorney General they will block any attempt to get the plan through the Commons.

A UK Government spokesperson would not be drawn on the exact timeline for its response when contacted.

"We are finalising the process of carefully analysing all of the 17,000 responses to the consultation," they said.

"We will announce next steps soon."

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