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  •   Bloody Sunday Troops Get Anonymity

    The Associated Press
    June 17, 1999

    LONDON The 17 soldiers who participated in the worst mass killing by British troops in Northern Ireland are entitled to anonymity when they testify about their actions 27 years ago, a court ruled Thursday.

    The High Court verdict infuriated relatives of the 13 people killed in Londonderry on Jan. 30, 1972, when the soldiers fired on a Catholic protest march in what became known as Bloody Sunday. The killings fueled support for the outlawed Irish Republican Army and remains a hotly disputed topic.

    Last year, Prime Minister Tony Blair approved a new investigation of Bloody Sunday, with a three-judge tribunal scheduled to begin hearing testimony in September.

    After coming under legal pressure from the victims' lawyers, the three judges ruled in May that former soldiers who testify would have to identify themselves fully unless they could demonstrate exceptional circumstances.

    The 17 soldiers' lawyers appealed that ruling to the High Court, which ruled 2-1 in their favor.

    Reading the majority opinion Thursday, Lord Justice John Roch said the inquiry's ruling on anonymity was flawed because it failed to consider the possibility the former soldiers, if named, might suffer reprisal attacks.

    The High Court granted the inquiry tribunal the right to appeal, which a spokesman said was being considered.

    Lawyers for the soldiers said they all wanted to testify, but insisted their lives would be endangered if they were named.

    Several relatives of those slain said the latest judgment could undermine the worth of the investigation. They rejected the idea that the IRA now 23 months into a cease-fire or anyone else would hunt down the former soldiers in revenge.

    "It's in our interests that these people are brought before the court and that they tell us what happened. It's not going to do us any good if these soldiers are harmed in any way," said Mickey McKinney, whose brother was among those shot dead on Bloody Sunday.

    The judgment seemed likely to dampen the families' hopes of filing civil lawsuits against any of the former soldiers.

    In the original investigation, many of the same soldiers insisted they shot only at armed figures, even though no weapons were found on the dead and no soldiers were injured.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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