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Killing 'not in heat of conflict'
A Royal Marine executed an injured Afghan insurgent - telling him: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil you c***. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us", a court martial heard today.
The serviceman, known only as Marine A, then turned to comrades and said "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention", it is alleged by prosecutors.
The execution - showing Marine A shooting the man in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol - had been filmed by a camera mounted on the helmet of co-defendant Marine B, the court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire was told.
Three marines, known only as Marines A, B and C, were arrested and later charged with murder after the footage was recovered by the Royal Military Police in September last year.
They are accused of murdering an unknown captured Afghan national on or about September 15 2011 contrary to Section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006. They each deny the charge.
The three defendants were hidden from view of the public gallery of the courtroom by the use of a screen - although the judge, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett, and the seven-strong court martial board could see the servicemen.
David Perry QC, prosecuting, explained the incident had taken place on the afternoon of September 15 after a patrol base in Helmand Province had come under attack from small arms fire from two insurgents.
An Apache helicopter was sent to provide air support and soon spotted an insurgent in a field and opened fire - blasting the man with 139 30mm rounds, Mr Perry said.
The pilot and co-pilot did not believe anyone could have survived the cannon fire and so Marine A and his colleagues were told to go and check out the field.
They discovered the Afghan seriously injured and in possession of an old AK47 rifle, two magazines of ammunition and a hand grenade, with Marine A reporting back to Operating Base Shahzad that the man was still alive.
Mr Perry said Marine A told the others to move the man from the field to an area where they were less likely to be seen by the helicopter or an observation balloon - "knowing full well" what they were about to do.
Mr Perry said the video footage recorded Marine A shooting the Afghan in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol and after doing so, saying: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil you c***. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."
The prosecutor said that Marine A then said to the other marines: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."
Mr Perry said that if their actions were ever discovered they would claim they were firing a warning shot.
"So that's the killing of a wounded man by Marine A and, the prosecution say, a clear acknowledgement of murder - that was to be concealed and it was 'not to go anywhere fellas because I just broke the Geneva Convention'," he said.
"The prosecution case is that Marine A used a pistol deliberately shot and killed the unknown man.
"Although Marine A used his pistol - firing the gun at close range into the injured man's chest - the case is that Marines B and C were all party to the killing.
"The prosecution case in respect of Marines B and C is that they encouraged and assisted Marine A in carrying out the killing."
Mr Perry added: "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.
"An execution of a man who was entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and entitled to be treated as any British serviceman or servicewoman would be entitled to be treated in a similar situation."
Mr Perry accused the three defendants of using the Afghan man's injuries as a "cloak" to conceal their own actions and reporting he had died from wounds inflicted by the helicopter.
Video footage, which may have been recorded when the camera was accidentally activated by movement, showed the injured man lying on the ground wearing a white top covered in blood.
The footage then captured the conversation between Marine A and C about shooting the man, before he was killed.
One serviceman is overheard asking "Anyone want to give first aid to this idiot?" before another replies loudly "Nope."
In addition, a journal, which had been written by Marine C, gave an insight into what happened during the alleged murder, the court martial heard.
"Marine C gives an account that he was encouraging Marine A to shoot the injured man," Mr Perry said.
"Marine C wanted to shoot him himself and one of the things he said to Marine A is 'Shall I shoot him in the head?'
"And Marine A said 'No that would be too obvious' and that was before Marine A was to shoot him in the chest.
"So the prosecution say, the journal compiled by Marine C, which he of course didn't know would come into the hands of the prosecuting authority, can be a clear admission of encouraging an act of murder."
Mr Perry said the Afghan man's body had been left where he was shot and a memorial erected in his memory.
Later his body was removed by locals and therefore there was no post mortem examination.
Mr Perry said that after the shooting senior officers at the Forward Operating Base believed the Afghan had died as a result of cannon fire from the Apache - and nothing was said by the marines to correct that impression.
In September 2012 one of the five video clips - showing the moments before the man was shot but not the actual killing - was recovered from a computer belonging to a marine, not concerned in these proceedings.
Marines A, B and C were arrested and interviewed.
Marine A said told interviewing officers that he had administered first aid after this video clip had ended but the man had died.
Marine A added: "All joking aside, no one killed him - he died of his injuries."
"We know that having seen video clip five, we know that this is simply incorrect," Mr Perry said.
"The prosecution say, and it gives me no pleasure to say, that this was an untruth."
Marine B told interviewers that they had moved the Afghan into better cover but he had died as a result of injuries inflicted by the Apache helicopter.
He said: "We find loads of blokes like this and we always patch them up."
When asked if anyone had shot the man, he replied: "No comment." When asked if he had shot him, Marine B said no.
Marine C also told investigators that after Marine B switched off the camera first aid was administered to the man - denying he or anyone else had shot the man.
"I didn't shoot that bloke - I didn't kill him. That footage shows me pointing the side arm at him but that is because we have trained to keep me and my patrol safe," he said.
Mr Perry said those interviews did not mention the discharge of a firearm and when the other clips were recovered a full picture of what is alleged by the prosecution emerged.
"The video footage shows he had not died of his injuries but had been shot by Marine A," he said.
"On the face of it appears that Marines A, B and C had lied during the course of those interviews. The fact they had lied does not mean they are guilty of murder."
In later interviews, Marine A said he had fired his pistol at the injured man but at the time "genuinely believed" he was dead.
"He also said that the incident had taken place at a very stressful time," Mr Perry said.
"What Marine A was saying was that he fired into the corpse out of anger. The prosecution say that whatever the stresses and strains of those engaged in this theatre the video footage and comments made speak for themselves.
"This was a deliberate and intentional killing by Marine A and that is, we suggest, obvious."
Marine B said later that Marine A had shot the man as he, Marine B, administered first aid and it was not something he had expected or encouraged.
"I didn't agree with Marine A's actions and I had been engaged in giving him first aid when it happened," Marine B told investigators.
"When Marine A shot the prisoner I was stunned and there was a long pause before I said anything. If I was saying 'rog' or 'roger' to Marine A after I was just acknowledging I heard what he said - I was not agreeing with it."
In later interviews Marine C was shown the journal he had made of his time in Afghanistan and he said he did not shoot the Afghan.
"I didn't shoot that man, I didn't suggest it and I didn't agree with it and I have played no part in and I have not murdered no one," he said.
Marine C described the journal as a "mechanism to cope with a very stressful environment".
The court martial was adjourned until tomorrow.