‘Soldier F’ prosecution one of the crimes of the century, says protest organiser
The prosecution of ‘Soldier F’ over the Bloody Sunday massacre has been described as “one of the crimes of the century” by the organiser of a protest set to bring parts of central London to a standstill.
Gavin Wragg, who was behind a similar protest in April, spoke as former servicemen and their supporters converged on Whitehall to form a human chain around Westminster on Saturday.
Soldier F, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is the only person from the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment ever to face trial for the deaths of 13 civil rights protesters and one passerby in Londonderry in January 1972.
He is charged with the murder of William McKinney, 27, and 22-year-old James Wray, and the attempted murder of four other men – Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
He faces a final charge of “attempted murder of a person or persons unknown”.
The Saville Report, an inquiry set up by Tony Blair in 1998 and which published its findings in 2010, also found Soldier F to have killed two other men – Bernard McGuigan, 41, and 31-year-old Patrick Doherty.
The inquiry found Mr Wray had been shot in the back while fleeing and that he was shot a second time as he lay dying, while Mr McKinney was also shot in the back.
Soldier F learned he was to be prosecuted in March of this year and the case is currently in its preliminary stages in Northern Ireland, and the decision by the Northern Irish authorities sparked outrage in Britain.
By 10.30am on Saturday morning around 500 people with flags and “support Soldier F” t-shirts had gathered in Trafalgar Square, with the march due to set off for Westminster at 12pm.
Speaking to the PA news agency about the prosecution, Mr Wragg said: “I got more and more enraged by it and I made a Facebook video saying we need people to come together and show this is wrong because so many people don’t know.”
Mr Wragg, who served with the Royal Transport Corp for 10 years, has dubbed the movement “Operation Rolling Thunder” and a protest in April saw 11,000 people including several biker gangs take to the streets in London.
“It’s appeasement by the British government, it’s just to appease the IRA – we’ve got a peace process with Northern Ireland and all the terrorists were pardoned, they were all set free for the horrific crimes they committed.
“Now we are suddenly prosecuting only British soldiers.”
He added: “You either have a peace agreement for all or nobody.”
Mr Wragg, 56, said the protest was not targeted at the families of the victims but said the relatives of the British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland had also never received justice.
He said he believed in the right to peaceful protest but emphasised that shots had been fired at British troops during the build-up to the Bloody Sunday killings.
The Saville Report found that an “opportunistic” sniper shot had been fired at British soldiers by an IRA member at around 4pm, but no-one was hit and the bullet lodged in a drain pipe.
Stones and other projectiles were also found to have been thrown by rioters.
“We understand the feelings of the people of Northern Ireland – they were innocent people – but to say five soldiers are to blame for everything, that’s just scapegoating,” Mr Wragg said.
Soldier F, who is now in his 70s, is not present on the march and has chosen not to get involved in the movement.