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20 June 2002 Edition

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More screening at Bloody Sunday inquiry

BY FERN LANE


Relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims have reacted angrily to a ruling by Lord Saville allowing for the screening of two British soldiers when they give evidence to the inquiry. Lord Saville said that there were "compelling reasons" for hiding the identities of the men, known as Soldier B and Soldier J, although he did not reveal any of the contents of the documents on which he has based his ruling. He said: "There is, to our minds at least, absolutely no doubt that the openness of this inquiry must give way to the extent necessary to protect the human rights of individuals."

Soldier B has been the subject of a Public Interest Immunity certificate application by the British Ministry of Defence on the grounds of "national security". Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, asked the inquiry to allow the "physical identity" of Soldier B to remain hidden when he is called to give evidence when the tribunal moves to London, saying: "I have unequivocally concluded that it would be damaging to the public interest for Soldier B to give evidence unscreened because of the serious harm that it would do to national security."

Soldier B, one of the first soldiers to open fire on Bloody Sunday, gave evidence to the Widgery Tribunal during which he claimed that he had come under attack from a "nail bomber". He said that he fired three shots in return after which the supposed nail bomber had fallen and was carried away.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed, said that the families were investigating whether they can appeal the decision. "We are very disappointed that he has taken this stance" he said "We see it as a precedent for further screening applications from soldiers, this is just the beginning. We are talking about the openness and transparency of the inquiry. This is another example of non-disclosure of documentation and the families have been cut out once again."

Relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims have reacted angrily to a ruling by Lord Saville allowing for the screening of two British soldiers when they give evidence to the inquiry. Lord Saville said that there were "compelling reasons" for hiding the identities of the men, known as Soldier B and Soldier J, although he did not reveal any of the contents of the documents on which he has based his ruling. He said that "There is, to our minds at least, absolutely no doubt that the openness of this inquiry must give way to the extent necessary to protect the human rights of individuals."
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