Belfast Telegraph

Bryson reports Eastwood to attorney general over 'Soldier F' comments

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wrote to Amazon over the
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wrote to Amazon over the "Soldier F t-shirts". (Brian Lawless/PA)

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has reported SDLP leader Colum Eastwood to the attorney general over comments he made about a soldier being prosecuted for murders committed on Bloody Sunday.

"Soldier F" is due to stand trial for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, who were killed when members of the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in Londonderry in 1972.

He is also facing charges for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

On Thursday, Colum Eastwood made several comments about Soldier F online after it emerged t-shirts in support of the former Parachute Regiment member were being sold on Amazon.

Jamie Bryson said the comments were "prejudicial" to the upcoming trial and accused Mr Eastwood of committing contempt of court.

The Foyle MLA denied the allegation, stating those making them "would better spend their time reading the Saville Report".

In a letter to John Larkin QC, Jamie Bryson said: "Soldier F has not been tried before the courts and no determination has been made as to whether this individual killed anyone.

“This tweet by a senior politician, with a large social media following, is in my view clearly prejudicing the upcoming trial of Soldier F and infringing his article 6 rights to a fair trial and indeed running roughshod over the presumption of innocence which should be afforded to all suspects in any criminal proceedings."

Mr Bryson said the SDLP leader's comments were a "deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the proceedings".

He added: “As such I would request that the matter is reviewed and if Mr Eastwood is found to be in contempt of court then consideration should clearly be given to issuing proceedings against him in order to deter other nationalist politicians from trying to use their public platforms to infringe upon the rights of defendants in criminal proceedings.”

In response, Colum Eastwood said: "Soldier F shot Patrick Doherty and Barney McGuigan as he waved a white handkerchief. That isn't just my view, it's the conclusion of the Saville Report. Soldier F also admitted shooting Michael Kelly.

"Those making accusations of contempt would better spend their time reading the Saville Report, speaking to those who lost loved ones on Bloody Sunday and supporting their efforts to secure truth, justice and accountability. I will never stop championing their cause."

Since it was announced in March that Soldier F is to face prosecution, banners and flags in support of the former lance corporal have been erected across Northern Ireland.

The Public Prosecution Service has informed relatives that it is anticipated Soldier F will appear at Londonderry Magistrates' Court in August.

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