Major security operation in place for veteran and republican rallies

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By David Young, Press Association

Security will be tight in Belfast later when a military veterans' rally takes place only yards from a counter demonstration by dissident republicans.

The city centre event organised by Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans is seeking to highlight what it alleges is a legal witchhunt against former security members who served during the Troubles.

There are similar rallies planned for London and Glasgow by a campaign group formed in response to a number of recent prosecutions of former soldiers in relation to incidents during the region's sectarian conflict.

The protest in front of Belfast City Hall is set to be tense as a hard-line republican group has organised its own march against the "presence of a British Army parade in Belfast".

Saoradh, which means liberation in Irish, was formed in 2016 with the backing of dissident republican prisoners.

It counts high-profile Co Armagh republican Colin Duffy among its supporters.

The Parades Commission, a government-appointed body that adjudicates on contentious marches in Northern Ireland, has restricted the route Saoradh can take.

The republicans will be prevented from reaching as far as City Hall and will instead be stopped by police just before they reach the landmark building. They will nevertheless still be in close proximity to the pro-military event.

The JFNIV rally in London is taking place at Horse Guards Parade while George Square will be the focus of the Glasgow demonstration.

Last year, two former soldiers were told they will be prosecuted for murder over the 1972 death of official IRA commander Joe McCann.

Another prominent case involves retired soldier Dennis Hutchings. The 75-year-old is to face trial accused of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm in relation to a fatal shooting in 1974.

Hutchings, from Torpoint in Cornwall, is due to address the veterans' rally in London.

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