Families await charging decision over N. Ireland 'Bloody Sunday'


Derry (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Northern Irish prosecutors will announce on Thursday whether 17 former British soldiers face charges for their part in the "Bloody Sunday" killings of 1972 -- when 13 protesters were shot dead in Derry.

State lawyers will also weigh whether to prosecute two ex-members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for their role in the day, one of the seminal events in the three-decades-long conflict known as "The Troubles".

The 13 demonstrators were killed participating in a civil rights march in the majority Catholic area of Bogside when soldiers from the British Parachute Regiment opened fire on January 30, 1972.

A fourteenth died of his wounds later.

In 2010, then British prime minister David Cameron issued a formal state apology for the killings, calling them "unjustified and unjustifiable".

A public inquiry found that British troops fired first and had given misleading accounts of what happened.

On Thursday, families of those who died are expected to march from a memorial to the city centre, before hearing the announcement from Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service, expected at 1100 GMT.

The British government on Wednesday said veterans found guilty of crimes during the Troubles would be eligible for early release under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The terms of the peace accord allowed some 500 republican and loyalist paramilitaries to leave prison after serving short sentences.

At present, the release scheme only covers offences omitted from 1973 to 1998.

However, the government has proposed legislation to widen the programme to offences taking place from 1968, meaning any Bloody Sunday prosecutions would be eligible.

Northern Ireland minister Karen Bradley has also drawn criticism for saying killings by British security forces and police "were not crimes".

"They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way," she said in parliament last week.

She later apologised for the comments.