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Bloody Sunday demonstrators demand release of republican

The British government is facing new demands to free a republican jailed for refusing to testify to an inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings.

MONDAY 31/01/2005 08:26:07
By:Press Association

As over 10,000 people gathered in Derry yesterday for a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of the day when paratroopers shot dead 13 civil rights marchers, speakers insisted Martin Doherty`s detention cannot be justified.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP also cast doubt on the chances of the marathon hearing delivering the truth when tribunal chairman Lord Saville finally publishes his report later this year.

Mitchel McLaughlin, the SF chairman, told crowds: "Many of us, when Tony Blair announced that he was setting up the Inquiry and that it would receive the full co-operation of his government and its agencies took a very sceptical view of such an announcement.

"The disgraceful imprisonment of Martin `Ducksie` Doherty was just further evidence of the British government and its agencies determination to criminalise republicans rather than expose the truth of its dirty war in Ireland."

Doherty, 49, from the Creggan area of the city, was jailed for three months for contempt after failing to co-operate with the inquiry into the January 1972 shootings.

The 49-year-old from the Creggan area of Derry, was known in court as PIRA 9, and became the first person jailed in connection with the hearing.

Despite Derry City Council passing a motion calling on Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy to secure his release, the British government insisted last week such a move would be inappropriate.

That refusal incensed Mr McLaughlin, who told the rally: "It is a scandal that Ducksie, an unapologetic Irish Republican who wasn`t even present at the march should be the only one to see the inside of a prison because of Bloody Sunday.

"We are here today demanding the Truth about Bloody Sunday and we are here in solidarity with `Ducksie` and his family and we demand his immediate and unconditional release.

"I reject from this platform Paul Murphy`s claim that he has no powers to intervene." He added: "People will wonder and ask, will Saville be different, will he look at the evidence without prejudice and come to a conclusion based solely on the evidence presented to his panel of Inquiry, or will he too, like Widgery (earlier inquiry) be influenced by his political masters and make his determination based on the effect it will have on the reputation of his government?

"We will just have to wait and see. If the treatment of Ducksie Doherty is an indicator, then it doesn`t bode well for the outcome."

SDLP Assembly member Dominic Bradley spoke of the rising concerns about the report`s findings.

"Will the Saville Inquiry will uncover the full truth of Bloody Sunday?" he asked.

"People are increasingly fearful that Saville will fall short of that standard. And when a Derryman, Martin Doherty, is the only person to serve a prison sentence over Bloody Sunday, those fears are exacerbated and amplified.

"But in spite of all the doubts and uncertainty, one thing remains absolutely clear: the Bloody Sunday campaign will carry on until truth is served and justice is done."

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