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Saturday, May 30, 1998 Published at 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK


Freedom demanded for jailed guardsmen

The imprisoned soldiers were members of the Scots Guards

Supporters of two Scots Guardsmen jailed for the murder of a Belfast teenager have accused the government of keeping them in prison while setting terrorists free.

About 200 campaigners, led by two pipe bands, marched through the centre of Aberdeen in the latest of a series of protests aimed at securing the early release of Jim Fisher, 29, from Ayr, and Mark Wright, 25, from Arbroath.

[ image:
"No wonder they can't get recruits": Jim Fisher's mother
Fisher's mother Sheila said she had no faith in the government after the latest attempt to free the pair had failed.

"It's terrible they are still in prison while the terrorists are getting out," she said.

"Jim and Mark should not be there anyway as far as I am concerned, but they can't justify it now they are letting the IRA out."

"If that's the price to be paid for peace, then so be it, but Jim and Mark should be out as well."

"I think the government have let them down - not just Jim and Mark, but the whole army," she added.

"No wonder they can't get the recruits they need these days if this is the way they treat soldiers."

MP cheered

The march coincided with the two guardsmen's 2,100th day behind bars and was supported by Andrew Welsh, SNP MP for Arbroath, and Phil Gallie, former Tory MP for Ayr.

Mr Welsh was cheered as he challenged Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam to explain why the guards should not be freed, when even Sinn Fein had said there was a case for their release.

Mr Gallie, branding the decision not to free them as "disgraceful", said: "We politicians gave them guns, gave them their instructions and expected them to do their duty. It is an absolute disgrace that they have now fallen foul of politicians."

The pair were jailed six years ago after being convicted of murdering Belfast youth Peter McBride. The guardsmen shot him as he ran away from their patrol.

But campaigners have claimed the pair acted under severe pressure and should not be treated as common criminals.

"On the day in question, when these two boys went out on patrol, they did not have murder on their minds," said march organiser Ian Kaye, of the Scots Guards Association."

"They reacted to an incident, and they reacted in accordance with the training they were given."

He said it was wrong that the two were still denied their liberty.

"After the Yes vote in Northern Ireland there is nothing to be gained from keeping them in prison. They should be let out immediately," he said.

March for jobs in London

At the same time in central London, hundreds of protesters marched to demand an overhaul of what they called Labour's "obnoxious" employment and welfare policies.

The March and Rally for Social Justice, billed as the first major demonstration in the capital against Tony Blair's government, was led by sacked Liverpool dockers who ended a 28-month dispute with employers in January.

Organisers who had hoped for a turnout of up to 20,000 denied they were disappointed despite police putting the attendance at 750, while stewards accompanying the march insisted the figure was closer to 2,000.

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