Murder trial due to start for Marines
Three Royal Marines accused of the murder of a captive Afghan national are to stand trial today.
The men, all of Stonehouse-based 3 Commando Brigade, will appear at Bulford Military Court Centre where the details of the incident, which occurred in 2011, are expected to be revealed to the public for the first time.
All three have denied the offence, which falls under Section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 that on or about September 15, 2011, they murdered the captured person while on patrol in Afghanistan.
At that time the marines were on a tour of duty in the country led by 3 Commando Brigade between April 2011, and October 2011.
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The case is expected to draw media attention from around the world as it's the first time British troops have been charged with murder since the war begin in 2001.
It is understood the "captured" Afghan had sustained injuries in a firefight before he was allegedly murdered.
The incident came to light after video footage relating to the incident was found on a serviceman's laptop during investigations for a completely unrelated offence.
In October 2012 seven Royal Marines were initially arrested for the offence, a further two were arrested but the case against six of them has since been dropped. At the time of their arrest the incident was described as "an engagement with an insurgent", with no civilians involved.
The rules of engagement, largely derived from the Geneva Convention, dictate under what circumstances British troops are allowed to open fire, whether that is to prevent an attack by the enemy or in direct contact.
The case has been brought by the Service Prosecuting Authority and at a previous hearing David Perry QC, prosecuting, said the core of the prosecution case would be video footage. The court was told that no body would comprise part of the evidence.
All of the marines are protected by an anonymity order granted last year by Judge Advocate General Blackett which remains "in full force in respect of all five" marines until further notice.
Making the ruling last November, the judge said: "I am satisfied that there may be a real and immediate risk to the defendants' lives based on the information which is currently in the public domain, and that the risk will increase significantly when all of the prosecution evidence is disclosed as the trial unfolds.
"The risk comes from organised terrorist activity and 'lone wolves' who are unpredictable. In this respect, members of the armed forces are entitled to be treated differently from civilians within this country at this moment in history.
"While they must remain accountable for their actions, and part of that accountability is through open justice, they are also entitled to protection from terrorists."
He added: "Any assessment of risk must err on the side of the safety of members of the armed forces. I am not prepared to take a chance with these men's lives."