UK

Marines murder trial hears Afghan prisoner 'executed'

Bulford Military Court Centre
Image caption The trial is taking place at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire

An injured Afghan prisoner was "executed" by a British commando, a court martial has heard.

Three Royal Marines, who cannot be named, are charged with murdering the unknown man while on duty in 2011.

One of the men, known as Marine A, is accused of shooting the prisoner in the chest at close range.

A helmet-mounted camera inadvertently filmed the incident and the footage was shown to the court. The three deny the charges against them.

Charges against two further marines - D and E - were dropped in February but the anonymity order granted last year remains in place.

Last November, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett said the defendants would be at "real and immediate risk" from "organised terrorist activity and lone wolves", if their names were made public.

Speaking to the board at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire, prosecutor David Perry said the murder took place on 15 September 2011 when the three defendants were on active service.

'Broke Geneva Convention'

"The prosecution case is that Marine A used a pistol and deliberately shot and killed the unknown man.

"It was not a killing in the heat and exercise of any armed conflict. The prosecution case is that it amounted to an execution, a field execution," he said.

Even though Marine A used the pistol, Marines B and C "encouraged and assisted Marine A in carrying out the killing," he added.

Mr Perry said the incident had occurred after a patrol base in Helmand Province had come under attack from small arms fire from two insurgents.

The Afghan prisoner had been seriously injured by gunfire fired from an Apache helicopter sent to provide air support, which he described as a legitimate operation.

The marines had come across the injured man in a field, the court heard. Marine A wanted to move him from an area where an air balloon, known as a PGSS, was in use for observation.

"He knew full well what he was going to do," Mr Perry said.

The court heard that after Marine A shot the Afghan prisoner with a 9mm pistol he swore at him and said: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil... It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."

The prosecutor said Marine A then said to the other marines: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."

Mr Perry accused the three defendants of using the Afghan man's injuries as a "cloak" to conceal their own actions, reporting he had died from wounds inflicted by the helicopter.

Five recordings caught on a camera mounted on the helmet of Marine B were shown to the panel.

In one conversation between Marine A and C about shooting the man one serviceman is overheard asking "Anyone want to give first aid to this idiot?" before another replies loudly "Nope."

In another Marine C was heard asking A if he should shoot the man in the head, which was refused with more offensive language as "obvious".

A journal which had been written by Marine C also gave an insight into what happened during the alleged murder, the court heard.

The men - who were hidden from view of the public gallery of the courtroom by the use of a screen - were arrested by Royal Military Police last October after civilian police found suspicious footage on a serviceman's laptop in the UK.

They are accused of murdering the Afghan national contrary to Section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.

The court martial is expected to see further video evidence either later on Wednesday or on Thursday.

One clip is said to show a body being moved from an open field to a mound, while another allegedly shows the shooting of the injured man by Marine A.

The trial could last up to three weeks.

The marines have been released on bail.

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