US & Canada

Birmingham bombing: Klansman Blanton is denied parole

Undated file picture of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr Image copyright AP
Image caption Blanton has been in jail since he was convicted of the bombing 15 years ago

An Alabama parole board has ruled that a Ku Klux Klan member who killed four black girls in 1963 by bombing a church in the US state should not be released from jail for at least five years.

Applause rang out at the hearing when the decision was made to keep 76-year-old Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr in jail.

Blanton was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001.

He was part of a group that blew up a Baptist church in Birmingham, killing an 11 year old and three 14 year-olds.

His former prosecutor said he had never expressed remorse.

Eyewitnesses talk about the Birmingham church bombing

Two other men convicted of the bombing have since died in prison.

The group bombed the 16th Avenue Baptist church, which was being used as a meeting place by black civil rights leaders, in an attempt to maintain racial separation in the southern states of the US.

Public schools in the city were facing an order to desegregate - to educate black and white children together - at the time.

The deaths of Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Morris (also known as Cynthia Wesley) were a defining moment in the civil rights era.

Blanton can be considered for parole again in five years' time.

Black leaders in the US have opposed his release, and members of the victims' families spoke at the hearing to argue that he should stay behind bars.

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