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Sacked veterans minister Johnny Mercer is expected to go to Belfast on Monday to support two ex-soldiers who face a murder trial over a shooting – risking a clash with the Government.

Sources suggest the MP intends to publicly back the elderly men, known as Soldiers A and C, just days after he accused the Government of having ‘abandoned’ those who served during the Troubles in his resignation letter.

Veterans and legal experts claim that the prosecutions of soldiers over incidents in Northern Ireland are ‘political’ and an attempt to appease Sinn Fein.

Sacked Johnny Mercer is expected to travel to Belfast to support two elderly men, known as Soldiers A and C

Sacked Johnny Mercer is expected to travel to Belfast to support two elderly men, known as Soldiers A and C

Sacked Johnny Mercer is expected to travel to Belfast to support two elderly men, known as Soldiers A and C

They cite a focus on shootings involving the security services – even though many of those at the hands of the Provisional IRA, who were responsible for most of the deaths during the conflict, remain unpunished.

Mr Mercer’s intervention could inflame tensions in the province, with veterans also planning protests outside Belfast’s Laganside Courts and the Houses of Parliament before the trial starts on Monday.

The MP was sacked from his defence post by text on Tuesday, hours after threatening to quit over the treatment of Northern Ireland veterans.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister afterwards, the former Army captain warned: ‘Veterans are drinking themselves to death and dying before their time simply because the Government cannot find the moral strength or courage we asked of them in bringing peace to Northern Ireland in finding a political solution to stop these appalling injustices.’

Soldiers A and C, now in their early 70s, are due to stand trial on Monday accused of the murder of Official IRA commander Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972.

Mr McCann, who was unarmed, was shot dead while evading arrest. A third soldier who fired shots has since died.

The former Parachute Regiment soldiers are the first British servicemen to be prosecuted over the killing of an active member of the IRA, and the first to stand trial since the Good Friday Agreement. They were cleared at the time but the Police Service of Northern Ireland reopened the case in 2016.

Soldiers A and C, now in their early 70s, are due to stand trial on Monday accused of the murder of Official IRA commander Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972

Soldiers A and C, now in their early 70s, are due to stand trial on Monday accused of the murder of Official IRA commander Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972

Soldiers A and C, now in their early 70s, are due to stand trial on Monday accused of the murder of Official IRA commander Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972

Their lawyers have successfully argued that they must remain anonymous because their lives are at risk.

Philip Barden, of Devonshires Solicitors, who has represented other Army veterans over Troubles incidents, said: ‘Johnny Mercer going over for the trial shows that the whole thing is political. This is not an ordinary trial. These are two elderly men accused of shooting and killing a man connected with terrorism.’

The Mail’s Witch-hunt Against Our Heroes campaign supports persecuted veterans.

In the 2019 Tory manifesto, Boris Johnson pledged to bring in a law within 100 days of entering office to protect Northern Ireland veterans from ‘vexatious’ prosecutions. The promised Bill has not been put forward, but the Government is due to unveil its plans in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

Mr Mercer did not respond to a request for comment.

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