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Soldier F Bloody Sunday trial set to be moved to Belfast

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Soldier F is charged with the murder of William McKinney (left) and James Wray on Bloody Sunday

Soldier F is charged with the murder of William McKinney (left) and James Wray on Bloody Sunday

Rioting during Bloody Sunday in 1972

Rioting during Bloody Sunday in 1972

Soldier F is charged with the murder of William McKinney (left) and James Wray on Bloody Sunday

Security fears mean substantive legal proceedings against an Army veteran accused of two murders on Bloody Sunday are set to be held in Belfast, a judge has said.

It is unlikely witnesses due to give evidence about Soldier F's alleged role on a notorious day of Troubles bloodshed could be heard in the Londonderry courthouse, District Judge Barney McElholm said.

A month-long hearing to decide whether to send the accused to trial is due to be held.

The former paratrooper is also charged with five counts of attempted murder over shootings during a civil rights demonstration on January 30 1972.

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Father Edward Daly uses a blood-stained handkerchief as a white flag on Bloody Sunday in 1972

Father Edward Daly uses a blood-stained handkerchief as a white flag on Bloody Sunday in 1972

Father Edward Daly uses a blood-stained handkerchief as a white flag on Bloody Sunday in 1972

The district judge said: "We cannot convene this in just some hall or public space.

"There are considerations of security.

"We are willing to listen to any reasonable opposition put to us.

"At the moment, despite trying to get somewhere closer to the city, I am afraid Belfast looks like the venue."

Up to 25 witnesses could be called during a hearing to produce evidence before the accused veteran is sent to trial in a higher court, a previous hearing at Bishop Street Courthouse in Londonderry was told by his lawyer.

The public legal proceedings could take up to a month.

On Friday, District Judge McElholm said Londonderry's aged courthouse was limited in terms of size and acoustics.

He said: "We have spent a lot of time looking at this and trying to get a venue providing sufficient accommodation that those who wish to attend the hearing can do so in reasonable comfort, also there are security considerations and people being able to hear what is going on."

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Mickey McKInney, whose brother was shot dead on Bloody Sunday (Michael McHugh/PA)

Mickey McKInney, whose brother was shot dead on Bloody Sunday (Michael McHugh/PA)

Mickey McKInney, whose brother was shot dead on Bloody Sunday (Michael McHugh/PA)

Ciaran Shiels, solicitor for Bloody Sunday victims, said the proceedings should be heard in Derry.

He added: "This is where the killings occurred, a stone's throw from these buildings.

"We have always been of the view that F should be attending here in person at his committal and that remains the position."

Lawyers for the families have two weeks to make submissions to the court challenging the decision to take the hearing to Belfast.

The families of those killed also oppose granting anonymity to Soldier F.

Mr Shiels said a senior lawyer in the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) had told him the PPS had written to F's representatives and said if they wished anonymity to continue then his lawyers should set out in detail the legal provision upon which they rely.

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Solicitor Ciaran Shiels with Micky and John McKinney (Liam McBurney/PA)

Solicitor Ciaran Shiels with Micky and John McKinney (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Solicitor Ciaran Shiels with Micky and John McKinney (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie was shot dead, said after Friday's court proceedings: "There is no question about it, this guy should be brought to this courthouse in the very near future.

"I, and I am sure the rest of the families, are not happy about the thought of going to Belfast.

"What happened on Bloody Sunday happened here 200 yards from where we now stand and Soldier F should be appearing at this courthouse."

Mr Shiels said if it was simply an issue of acoustics another room in the courthouse or across the street could be used for a live link from the court.

He added: "I don't think security is the main issue in terms of the impetus behind this.

"Any police officer I was speaking to has said they would far rather have these proceedings take place here than in Belfast."

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The victims of Bloody Sunday (Bloody Sunday Trust)

The victims of Bloody Sunday (Bloody Sunday Trust)

Press Association Images

The victims of Bloody Sunday (Bloody Sunday Trust)

Belfast Telegraph