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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK

Talking Point

World War One deserters: Should they be pardoned?

There is to be no formal legal pardon for the 306 men shot for cowardice or desertion during World War One, the government has announced.

BBC Political Correspondent Paul Powley reports from Westminster (2' 57")
The Armed Forces Minister, John Reid, has said that 80 years on, it is impossible to tell who deliberately let down his country and comrades, and who had not.

But he expressed a deep sense of regret at the lives that were lost. He added that the men should be regarded as victims of war.

But is regret enough? Can it ease the pain and shame of the soldiers' families? Should the horrific and exceptional conditions of the war demand total clemency?

Campaigners argue that the executed soldiers were no less brave than their counterparts who fought.

A soldier's relative speaks of his disappointment to BBC Radio 4's PM programme (3' 5")
They say they were unable to fight due to shell shock and post traumatic stress syndrome.

But the government says the remaining evidence is too scant - expressing deep regret is therefore as far as it can go.

At its annual conference, the Royal British Legion voted unanimously to pardon the executed.

But others believe justice was carried out according to the laws of the day and should therefore be left undisturbed.

What do you think?

World War One deserters: Should they be pardoned?

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