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A former soldier accused of murdering two people appears in court for the first time in the Bloody Sunday case

A former soldier accused of two Bloody Sunday murders appeared in court for the first time since being charged, with his lawyers trying to have the case dismissed.

Former paratrooper Trooper F, who cannot be identified, is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney when members of the Parachute Regiment shot dead 13 protesters on the streets of Derry in January 1972.

He is also charged with five counts of attempted murder.

On Friday, the veteran was present in Court 16 of Belfast Crown Court for a pre-trial hearing before Judge Fowler.

He sat on the witness stand, behind a thick, floor-to-ceiling blue curtain that shielded him from the court’s main bodies and protected his anonymity.

Soldier F attended the Laganside Courts hearing in Belfast (PA)

Relatives of Bloody Sunday victims packed the public gallery as they arrived for a hearing in Derry. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also attended the hearing.

In the lack of statute proceeding, the defense filed a motion to dismiss the case prior to trial.

Representing Soldier F, Mark Mulholland KC argued that there was “insufficient evidence” against his client.

He then stated that contemporary statements by other soldiers taking part in the Bloody Sunday events, which the prosecutor’s office wanted to rely on, were “contradictory and erroneous.”

Mulholland told the judge that the case against the veterans lacked a “consistent evidentiary base” to substantiate any of the seven charges against him.

Earlier, the judge considered a request to extend the rules of anonymity and control of officers regarding Soldier F.

Judge Fowler has already granted an interim extension pending fuller legal arguments on the issue.

Ian Turkington KC, who is also part of the veteran’s defense team, told the court that Soldier F would be seen as a “precious target” for dissident republicans and said there was a “real and immediate risk” to his life if his identity was revealed. made public.

The defense relied on expert reports prepared by former Deputy Chief Constable of the Police of Northern Ireland, Alan McQuillan.

McQuillan, who gave evidence to the court via video link, told the judge that the prosecution of Soldier F had taken on a “totemic” status.

He warned that the New IRA, which he said was based in Derry, might try to attack him. The former senior officer said the risks would increase if the former soldier was ultimately acquitted at trial.

“There will always be a risk because whether convicted or acquitted, there will always be those who want revenge, but if he were acquitted the impulse would be even greater,” he said.

The prosecutor’s office adopted a neutral position on the request for anonymity and control.

Illinois State Prosecutor’s Office (PPS) attorney Louis Mably KC emphasized that police’s current assessment of the risk to Soldier F is “low.”

He also suggested that the court could consider other measures – such as allowing Soldier F’s name to be released during court proceedings but preventing the media from reporting the name; or continue to keep his name anonymous but force him to appear in court without scrutiny.

The judge said he would maintain a temporary extension of anonymity and review until a ruling is made in the case.

A trial date for Soldier F has not yet been set.

Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest days in the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. 13 people died that day, and four months later another man died, shot by paratroopers.

Many consider him the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, but formally his death was attributed to an inoperable brain tumor.

PPS has already called for a halt to the prosecution of Soldier F in 2021, citing concerns that the case could fail if it goes to court.

The decision to stay the proceedings was challenged by Mr McKinney’s family and the Belfast District Court subsequently overturned the PPS move.

After reviewing its position, the PPS decided to resume the prosecution.