Northern Irish prosecutors on Thursday charged a former British soldier with murder over the “Bloody Sunday” killings of 1972.
The evidence was insufficient to charge 16 other former soldiers, the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland said.
The ex-paratrooper, known only as Soldier F, was charged with murdering two people and the attempted murder of four others when troops opened fire on a demonstration in Londonderry, also known as Derry, in which 13 protesters were shot dead.
Soldier F was one of 17 British veterans who had faced investigation over Bloody Sunday, but he was the only one charged.
The United Kingdom‘s government said it will provide full legal support to the soldier, who will face prosecution for his part in the killing of 13 Catholic civil rights marchers in Northern Ireland 47 years ago, according to the country’s defence secretary.
“The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance, and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today’s decision,” British defence secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement on Thursday.
The charges follow a decade-long investigation that concluded soldiers killed 13 unarmed demonstrators who were protesting Britain’s detention of suspected Irish nationalists.
Relatives of those killed held a march through Londonderry on Thursday, calling for justice.
Supporters of the soldiers say it is unfair for them to face charges decades after the events.
An official British government inquiry conducted within weeks of the shootings concluded that the soldiers were blameless.
The inquiry did not take evidence from civilian witnesses. It was later revealed that soldiers were coached on what to say in their statements.
Relatives of the victims and nationalist politicians continued to campaign for a new inquiry, which was finally granted in 1998 under a former judge, Lord Saville of Newdigate.
Northern Ireland’s top prosecutor has been considering evidence relevant to the actions of 18 former soldiers since 2016. One soldier has since died.
David Cameron, who was then the prime minister of Britain, apologised for deaths in June 2010 after Lord Saville’s report exonerated all those killed, saying that there was no justification for their shooting.
The violent conflict between those who sought a united Ireland, mostly Catholics, and those who wanted to maintain the link with Britain, mostly Protestants, lasted from the late 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.