14 August 2008 Edition

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British Army killer of Belfast teenagers eulogised in Afghanistan

The car in which Karen Reilly and Martin Peake died

The car in which Karen Reilly and Martin Peake died

Lee Clegg the 39-year-old British soldier originally jailed for life in 1993 for the murder of two Belfast teenagers but then cleared five years later, has been secretly deployed to Afghanistan as a ‘fighting medic’. This week the Parachute Regiment soldier has been eulogised in the British Tory media for his role in the occupying army.
Lee Clegg was convicted of murder for his involvement in a shooting that took place on 30 September, 1990. Clegg, then a private, and his fellow soldiers manning a checkpoint on the Upper Glen Road in Belfast, fired 19 bullets into a Vauxhall Astra. Clegg fired four of the bullets, the last of which killed 18-year-old passenger Karen Reilly. The driver, 17-year-old Martin Peake, also died at the scene. Clegg was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 1993. The murder conviction was opposed by Unionist politicians and some British newspapers, including the Daily Mail, who began a campaign for his release. Clegg was released under licence by then Six County Direct Ruler Patrick Mayhew in 1995, which in turn led to rioting in nationalist areas of Belfast. After various appeals and a re-trial Clegg was cleared of the murder conviction. Tuesday’s  Daily Telegraph tried to portray the British Army murderer as a hero saying “The former corporal is said to have repeatedly braved Taliban fire to rescue wounded comrades and bring back the dead” and comments from General Sir Antony Walker, ex-Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff will be even more offensive to the families of Clegg’s victims in the North.  “Fifteen years ago he was in a prison cell serving a life sentence” Walker announced and “Today – as Sergeant Clegg – he’s back at the sharp end of war, providing essential support to soldiers of his battalion who are wounded in action.”
Commenting on Clegg’s deployment Relatives for Justice spokesperson Mark Thomson said  
“For many of the world’s neutral observers the deployment of Clegg in Afghanistan will be judged against his role in the killing of two children, Karen Reilly and Martin Peake, and the wounding of Markievicz Gorman no matter how much the British spin their version. The British Army has not drawn any lessons from its campaign in Ireland, including the killing of hundreds of children and civilians” Thompson went on to say:  “For the people of Ireland, and in particular the community of West Belfast, we know the truth and the awful human legacy of the British Army’s actions of which Clegg was a part. Indeed this community recently commemorated the brutal killings by the Parachute Regiment of 11 unarmed civilians in Ballymurphy on  9 August 1971. Let’s hope that the people of Afghanistan are spared three and half decades of the British Army.”

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