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U.K. Bloody Sunday report coming next week

A British judge will unveil a report next week into Bloody Sunday, the 1972 atrocity when British soldiers gunned down Catholic demonstrators in bitterly disputed circumstances.

A British judge will unveil a report next week into Bloody Sunday, the 1972 atrocity when British soldiers gunned down Catholic demonstrators in bitterly disputed circumstances.

In his 5,000-page report that cost an estimate £190 million ($288 million) and took 12 years to produce, Lord Mark Saville is expected to conclude on June 15 that soldiers committed illegal killings of unarmed Catholic civilians.

That would confirm the long-held views of thousands of witnesses, two British governments and even some of the testifying soldiers that the 1st Battalion of the elite Parachute Regiment went wild on the streets of Londonderry on Jan. 30, 1972.

That day 13 civil rights demonstrators were killed by the British army in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry, also known as Derry City.

The Bloody Sunday killings, combined with Britain's insistence at the time that the soldiers were defending themselves from weapons-wielding Irish Republican Army members, infuriated the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and spurred the outlawed IRA into its own increasingly brutal acts.

The year 1972 became the deadliest turning point of a four-decade conflict. 

But the key question today is whether the release of Saville's epic fact-finding exercise, the biggest in British legal history involving 921 oral witnesses and 250 volumes of evidence, will heal communal wounds in support of Northern Ireland's peace process or just stir up more courtroom fights.

Saville gave the paratroopers who opened fire that day anonymity in the witness box and broad protections from criminal charges. But legal experts say wiggle room remains for prosecutions and civil lawsuits against retired soldiers now in their 60s and 70s, particularly if lawyers can demonstrate the soldiers told lies to Saville.