IOL: Soldier may be jailed for Saville no-show

Soldier may be jailed for Saville no-show
17/09/2003 - 16:41:05

A former soldier who refused to give evidence about Bloody Sunday is to be reported to the British High Court for contempt of the inquiry, it emerged today.

Soldier L, who was due to give evidence before the Saville Inquiry at Central Hall in Westminster today could now face a jail sentence after ignoring a court order to appear before the hearing.

Inquiry chairman Lord Saville was told by the soldier’s junior counsel Alexander Milne that instructing solicitors had contacted him again today to try to persuade him to attend.

“There is no indication at this stage that he will be with us in the morning but we will continue to seek to persuade further,” Mr Milne said.

Lord Saville told the lawyer: “It seems to us that we have no alternative but to put in train the process of reporting your client to the High Court for contempt of this tribunal.”

The inquiry is investigating the events of January 30, 1972 when 13 unarmed civilians were shot dead by paratroopers during a civil rights march in the Bogside area of Derry.

Soldier L was due to give controversial evidence based on his statement, which included saying his intention on Bloody Sunday was to get Martin McGuinness “dead or alive”.

Mr McGuinness, who at the time of Bloody Sunday was a senior IRA figure in the city, is now a Sinn Féin MP and the party’s chief negotiator.

In his statement, Soldier L also said he saw another paratrooper, known to the inquiry as Soldier H, opening fire on a body at point blank range. He added that when soldiers lifted the body to put it on an army truck, it split in two.

He also claimed he saw two gunmen at the barricades near Rossville Flats and later witnessed former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly, then a parish priest, concealing two rifles inside his cassock.

Meanwhile, a former captain in the parachute regiment told the Saville Inquiry he was concerned about the number of shots being fired by soldiers on Bloody Sunday.

Soldier 200, who commanded a unit on the day of the civil rights march, said he had discussed the matter with a company commander who then gave the ceasefire order.

He told the inquiry: “I cannot remember the exact words but I did express concern at the amount of firing going on at that time.”

The soldier said he was certain that troops came under fire from automatic or semi automatic weapons in the Bogside before soldiers opened fire.

Asked if it was possible he had heard the sound of several SLRs being fired at the same time, the soldier replied: “I do not believe this to be possible.”

Soldier 200 who was in command of a support unit known as Guinness Force, added he saw soldiers firing shots at a gunman armed with a pistol inside Rossville Flats.

He also reported witnessing a paratrooper firing a plastic bullet into the back of an armoured vehicle.

“I remember this clearly, that he fired this baton round into the back of a vehicle. I might have made a comment to him because he then moved off and I did not see him again.”

Christopher Clarke QC, counsel for the inquiry, pointed out that two men held prisoner in the back of an Army Pig, have given written evidence that one of them was injured after a soldier fired a baton round into the vehicle.

Soldier 200 said he did not know if there were prisoners inside the vehicle that he had observed.

Mr Clarke added: “I assume that it would be unacceptable for a soldier to fire a rubber bullet into a Pig which contained two prisoners?”

The soldier replied: “I agree with that assumption.”

Earlier, another soldier insisted that he saw at least three gunmen on Bloody Sunday.

Soldier 1990 said he saw the gunmen in the area of the Rossville Flats, one of whom was sitting down with a rifle in his lap.

Seamus Treacy QC, representing the families, suggested to Soldier 1990 that he was a liar or a fantasist and accused him of being a drama merchant who had invented the story to put himself in the limelight.

“I suggest to you that your evidence about having seen three, possibly five gunmen is just absolute nonsense?” he added.

The soldier insisted he had a clear memory of seeing the gunmen.

The tribunal continues tomorrow.

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