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A Royal Marine convicted of murdering an injured Afghan insurgent should be shown leniency when he is sentenced, a retired commander has said.

Maj Gen Julian Thompson, who led 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War, said a five-year or 10-year term would be more appropriate than life.

The sergeant, known as Marine A, faces a mandatory life sentence but a minimum term will be set.

A court martial convicted him over the shooting of the unknown man in 2011.

Two other marines were cleared after the trial at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire.

Remanding Marine A in custody ahead of sentencing on 6 December, the judge said the court would determine the minimum sentence he would serve before being eligible for release.

Maj Gen Thompson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the shooting of the Afghan insurgent in Helmand Province was “totally wrong, totally unforgiveable” and it was “quite right” that he will be sentenced.

But he said we don’t know what pressure the sergeant may have been under in the past.

“I understand that he’s quite an experienced guy. People are talking about him being battle hardened and therefore there is no excuse.

“Well actually it’s the other way round, the more times you do tours in that filthy war, the more pressure there is on you,” he said.

He said some sort of clemency should be exercised.

“He certainly shouldn’t serve any less than five years, maybe 10. I hope that his behaviour and the fact he truly regrets what he did would be taken into account when the time comes,” he said.

‘Appalling aberration’

It is the first time a member of the British forces has faced a murder charge in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan, which began in 2001.

Following the verdict on Friday, Brigadier Bill Dunham, of the Royal Marines, said the murder was “a truly shocking and appalling aberration”.

 

The incident came to light after one of the marines who was later cleared – known as Marine B – inadvertently filmed the murder on his helmet-mounted camera.

The footage taken on 15 September 2011 was shown to the court during the two-week trial.

It showed Marine A shooting the Afghan prisoner with a 9mm pistol, and saying: “There, shuffle off this mortal coil… It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.”

He adds: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention,” to which Marine B replies: “Yeah, roger mate.”

On Thursday, a recording of a conversation between the marines in the moments surrounding the shooting was released by the judge.

Murder followed attack

During the court martial, prosecutor David Perry told the court the murder was “not a killing in the heat and exercise of any armed conflict… it amounted to an execution”.

Marine A told the court martial he had fired because of “poor judgement and lack of self-control”, but said he had thought the insurgent was already dead.

The Geneva Convention

This international agreement concerning the treatment of captured and wounded prisoners of war was first signed in Geneva in 1864. It was later revised in 1949 and consists of four treaties.

Article three of the third convention rules that members of the armed forces who have laid down their arms or who cannot fight due to sickness, wounds or detention should be “treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria”.

To this end, it is prohibited to pass sentences on prisoners or carry out executions without a constituted court judgement. Prisoners may not be harmed, degraded, humiliated or taken hostage.

Under the convention, the wounded and sick should be collected and cared for by an impartial humanitarian body, such as the Red Cross.

Marines B and C were accused by the prosecution of being “party to the killing” and of having “encouraged and assisted” Marine A to commit the murder.

At the time of the killing, he was an experienced sergeant, while Marine C was the most junior of the three.

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

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

In one conversation between Marine A and C about shooting the man, one serviceman is overheard asking “Anyone want to give first aid to this idiot?” before another replies loudly “Nope.”

In another, Marine C was heard asking A if he should shoot the man in the head, but Marine A said that would be too “obvious”.

Royal Military Police arrested the three marines in October 2012 after video footage was found on a serviceman’s laptop by civilian police in the UK.

See on www.bbc.co.uk

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