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'Marine A' sentenced to life imprisonment for murder of Afghan prisoner

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2013

AlexanderWayneBlackman

Alexander Wayne Blackman

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An experienced Royal Marine says he is "devastated" at being handed a life sentence for executing in cold blood an injured Taliban fighter.

Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 39, will serve at least ten years' imprisonment for murdering the Afghan national in Helmand province in 2011.

The married commando, known to friends and family as Al, said he was "very sorry" for his actions, which were filmed on the headcam of a comrade during the fateful patrol in "the most dangerous square mile in Afghanistan".

At the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, Plymouth-based Blackman, a respected senior non-commissioned officer with 15 years' experience, was "dismissed with disgrace" from the Royal Marines.

Speaking after Blackman, from Taunton, was led away to begin his sentence in a civilian prison, his solicitor Issy Hogg thanked the public for the support they have shown to him and his wife.

Miss Hogg added that Blackman, who until Thursday was known as Marine A when judges at the High Court in London ruled he should be named, intends to appeal.

"Sgt Blackman and his wife are devastated by the life sentence imposed upon him together with the order that he serve a minimum of ten years before he is eligible for parole," she said.

"Furthermore, he has been dismissed with disgrace from the Royal Marines, with whom he has served proudly for 15 years.

"He is very sorry for any damage caused to the Royal Marines. Finally, Sgt Blackman thanks the public for the support shown to him and his wife."

Blackman was convicted last month following a two-week court martial in which his two co-accused, known only as Marines B and C, were acquitted of murder.

The killing happened five months into an arduous six-month tour of Helmand province in 2011 with Plymouth-based 42 Commando, known as Operation Herrick 14.

Blackman shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol before quoting a phrase from Shakespeare as the man convulsed and died in front of him.

"There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you ****. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us," Blackman told him.

Blackman, then turned to comrades and said: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."

He told the court martial that he fired his gun out of anger but insisted the insurgent was already dead and said it was a "lack of self-control, momentary lapse in my judgment".

Blackman's commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Simon Chapman pledged his "full support" to Blackman – describing him as "a normal citizen tainted only by the impact of war".

Anthony Berry QC, for Blackman, called for leniency on the grounds of the "exceptional circumstances".

"It is no exaggeration to say that sergeants like Blackman in the British Army and the Marines really form the backbone of the individual operations," he said.

But sentencing Blackman, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett said the commando betrayed the armed services.

"You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood," the judge said. "By doing so you have betrayed your corps and all British service personnel who have served in Afghanistan and you have tarnished their reputation.

"In one moment you undermined much of the good work done day in, day out by British forces and potentially increased the risk of revenge attacks against your fellow service personnel.

"Your actions have put at risk the lives of other British service personnel. You have provided ammunition to the terrorists.

"That ammunition will no doubt be used in their programme of radicalisation. That could seriously undermine the reputation of British forces and ultimately the mission in Afghanistan.

"Committing this sort of act could well provoke the enemy to act more brutally towards British troops in retribution".

He said Blackman failed to demonstrate the self-discipline and restraint that is required of service personnel and added it was very important the court "sends out a very strong message".

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