Marine convicted of Afghan murder named

"Sergeant Al Blackman... is the man who is seen in that video footage pulling the trigger", reports Jonathan Beale

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A Royal Marine who murdered an injured insurgent in Afghanistan has been named as Sergeant Alexander Blackman.

Three senior judges sitting at the High Court in London lifted an anonymity order which prevented him from being identified.

Arguments made for Blackman and other marines in the case suggested their lives would be at "real and immediate" risk if their names were released.

But the judges upheld a decision to name him and two others.

On 8 November a court martial board found Blackman, who is from Taunton, Somerset, guilty of murdering the man in Helmand Province more than two years ago.

Considered for promotion

The anonymity order for the two other marines, who were acquitted, will remain in place until the court publishes its full judgement and lawyers decide whether to appeal.

All three marines on trial denied murdering the unknown captured Afghan on or about 15 September 2011, contrary to section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.

Marine footage Footage from a helmet camera was released by the court martial judge

But Blackman, who will be sentenced on Friday, was convicted by a seven-strong court martial board following a two-week trial.

The murder took place after a patrol base in Helmand Province came under attack from small arms fire from two insurgents.

Analysis

The case of Marine A - whose name was today revealed as Alex Blackman - has prompted mixed feelings within the military.

Friends and colleagues of Blackman have been protective, describing the sergeant's tour of duty in Helmand that year as the "tour from hell" and stressing just how much pressure the marines were under in his area, where he lost several close colleagues.

Retired Major-General Julian Thompson, who led 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War summed up the feelings of many. He described the killing as "totally unforgivable" but said a lenient sentence would be appropriate given the circumstances faced by the Royal Marine.

Commanders at the Royal Marines have not pleaded for leniency, though, and take the view that he must face the legal consequences of his actions. But at the same time there is a determination to ensure that his family is given all the help it needs while Blackman serves his sentence, and that he receives any support he may need, be that legal or psychological.

Nonetheless, many within the armed forces judge Blackman's actions more harshly than many civilians, saying that British service personnel must retain the highest standards of conduct wherever they are and under even the worst circumstances. Clemency for such a serious lapse would, they say, send out entirely the wrong message.

General Sir Nick Houghton, the head of the Armed Forces, has said very clearly that "murder is murder". The Judge Advocate General, and a seven-strong military board including Royal Marine and Royal Navy officers, will together decide Blackman's sentence on Friday at Bulford Military Court.

The Afghan prisoner was seriously injured by gunfire from an Apache helicopter gunship sent to provide air support, and the marines found him in a field.

Blackman was filmed by a camera mounted on the helmet of one of the other marines shooting the victim at close range with a 9mm pistol.

After the shooting, Marine A said: "There, shuffle off this mortal coil... It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."

He added: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."

Marine A told the court martial who found him guilty that he had fired because of "poor judgement and lack of self-control", but said he had thought the insurgent was already dead.

Of the decision to lift the anonymity order, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "We presented our security concerns in open court, and an independent legal process has now concluded; we respect the decision of the court."

The BBC's defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the news had been greeted with a mixed reaction from military figures.

Friends and colleagues described Blackman's time in Helmand that year as the "tour from hell", during which he lost several men close to him, our correspondent said.

Blackman was 39-years-old at the time of the court martial and had 15 years' experience as a Royal Marine.

He had completed three tours in Iraq, two in Afghanistan and one in Northern Ireland during his military career.

Prior to the video of the murder coming to light, Blackman was being considered for promotion to Colour Sergeant.

The marines involved in the case were known by the letters A to E.

The question of whether to name Marines D and E, against whom charges were discontinued, will be decided at another hearing.

footage captured by a camera mounted on the helmet of a Royal Marine during a patrol in Afghanistan In images released during the hearing the faces of the marines involved were obscured by the MoD to protect their identities

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Tugendhat and Mr Justice Holroyde, made the identity rulings about Blackman and Marines B and C earlier.

The decisions follow a hearing last week, when the judges considered a challenge to a ruling by Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett that the names of the defendants should be made public.

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