Bri­tish sol­dier who killed Tale­ban fighter di­vides UK

‘Shuf­fle off this mor­tal coil ... It’s noth­ing you wouldn’t do to us’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A Bri­tish sol­dier who cited Shake­speare af­ter killing an in­jured Tale­ban fighter could be home on bail in time for Christmas, three years af­ter be­ing found guilty of mur­der in a land­mark con­vic­tion. The case of Alexan­der Black­man, who was iden­ti­fied only as “Marine A” dur­ing his trial, has fas­ci­nated and di­vided pub­lic opin­ion in Bri­tain.

On Septem­ber 15, 2011, the 42-year-old Royal Marine shot a Tale­ban fighter who had been se­ri­ously in­jured by fire from an Apache he­li­copter in Hel­mand prov­ince. “There you are. Shuf­fle off this mor­tal coil ... It’s noth­ing you wouldn’t do to us,” said Black­man, para­phras­ing Shake­speare’s “Ham­let” af­ter shoot­ing the fighter at close range with a 9mm pis­tol. “Ob­vi­ously this doesn’t go any­where, fel­las. I just broke the Geneva Con­ven­tion,” he said to his fel­low Royal Marines, in ref­er­ence to in­ter­na­tional law gov­ern­ing the treat­ment of pris­on­ers of war.

Footage of the in­ci­dent was cap­tured on a cam­era mounted onto the hel­met of one of the sol­diers, and two years later Black­man was con­victed of mur­der by a court mar­tial. The case was the first time since the Sec­ond World War that a Bri­tish sol­dier was con­victed of a mur­der car­ried out on the bat­tle­field. “You treated that Afghan man with con­tempt and mur­dered him in cold blood,” judge Jeff Black­ett told Black­man in De­cem­ber 2013 as the sol­dier was given a life sen­tence with a 10-year min­i­mum.

“By do­ing so you have be­trayed your corps and all Bri­tish ser­vice per­son­nel who have served in Afghanistan, and you have tar­nished their rep­u­ta­tion,” Black­ett added. The con­vic­tion was sup­ported by Bri­tain’s then chief of de­fence staff, Nicholas Houghton, who said: “Mur­der is mur­der, this is a heinous crime.” But now Black­man is mak­ing a bid for free­dom, with a court hear­ing in Lon­don on Wed­nes­day set to de­cide if he will be granted bail.

‘Ic­ing on the cake’

The sol­dier’s le­gal team ul­ti­mately aims to over­turn the con­vic­tion and have the crime less­ened to man­slaugh­ter, fol­low­ing a Royal Navy re­view which sug­gests Black­man was suf­fer­ing from post-trau­matic stress at the time of the shoot­ing. Black­man has de­nied mur­der and claimed he shot the Tale­ban fighter once the in­sur­gent was al­ready dead.

His wife, Claire Black­man, told the BBC she hoped to have her hus­band home for Christmas. “Bail would be the ic­ing on the cake,” she said. Dozens of veter­ans are due to gather on Wed­nes­day out­side the Royal Courts of Jus­tice to call for “Jus­tice for Marine A, aban­doned by the gov­ern­ment,” ac­cord­ing to a poster. Black­man’s sup­port­ers in­clude Richard Kemp, a for­mer com­man­der in Afghanistan, who said the sol­dier had been “thrown to the wolves by cow­ards”.

MP Richard Draw and au­thor Fred­er­ick Forsyth have promised to pay the £200,000 bail. The Daily Mail news­pa­per has also cam­paigned against the mur­der con­vic­tion. “Did a man who for 13 years risked his life de­fend­ing his coun­try, of­ten in the most ap­palling en­vi­ron­ment... re­ally de­serve to be tried for mur­der and thrown in jail like a com­mon crim­i­nal?” the right-wing news­pa­per wrote.

Be­yond the “Marine A” case, Bri­tish tabloids have cam­paigned against for­mer sol­diers fac­ing trial for al­leged crimes com­mit­ted while on duty. They re­ceived sup­port from Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who in Oc­to­ber promised to “put an end to the in­dus­try of vex­a­tious claims that has pur­sued those who served in pre­vi­ous con­flicts”. — AFP

LON­DON: This file photo taken on De­cem­ber 16, 2016 shows sup­port­ers pos­ing for a pho­to­graph with a plac­ard show­ing the Royal Marine flag with a pic­ture of for­mer Marine Sgt Alexan­der Black­man, out­side the Royal Courts of Jus­tice. — AFP

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