AN experienced Royal Marine filmed executing an injured Taliban insurgent in cold blood has been given a ten year minimum jail sentence.
Sergeant Alexander Blackman, 39, whose name was made public for the first time yesterday following a ruling by judges at the High Court in London, was convicted last month of murdering the Afghan national in Helmand Province in September 2011.
Two other comrades, known only as Marine B and Marine C, were acquitted of murder by the court martial board in Bulford, Wiltshire.
The killing happened five months into an arduous six-month tour of Helmand province in 2011, 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 c***. 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.”
The execution was filmed by a camera mounted on the helmet of Marine B.
Marines B and C were alleged to have been “party to the killing” and “encouraged and assisted” Marine A in committing the murder but they were cleared.
Blackman was given a life sentence with the minimum term decided by the seven-man court martial board made up of senior non-commissioned officers and officers, and Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett.
During his evidence at the court martial, Blackman, who denied murder, admitted he fired his gun out of anger but insisted the insurgent was already dead.
Blackman explained to the court martial why he fired: “Stupid, lack of self-control, momentary lapse in my judgment.
“I thought about it over the last year as we get towards these proceedings but I cannot give any other reason than to say that it was poor judgment and lack of self-control. I thought he was dead.”
He blamed “foolish bravado” for quoting Shakespeare at the dying man and said it was something “I am not proud of”.
Blackman, who completed tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland during his military career, had 15 years experience in the Royal Marines.
He was in charge of Command Post Omar in Helmand during the tour and was considered a safe pair of hands by his superiors.
At 6ft 3in, he was a physically imposing Marine who always led from the front and was an expert in heavy weapons, including machine guns.
Blackman was credited with building good relations with the local population.
His role in Afghanistan also included taking part in shuras - meetings with community leaders and elders.
Prior to a video of the murder coming to light, Blackman was being considered for promotion to colour sergeant.
The judge told Blackman, who stood to attention to hear the sentence, that he had disgraced the name of the British armed services and had put troops’ lives at risk by his actions.
“This was not an action taken in the heat of battle or immediately after you had been engaged in a firefight,” the judge said.
“Nor were you under any immediate threat - the video footage shows that you were in complete control of yourself, standing around for several minutes and not apparently worried that you might be at risk of attack by other insurgents.
“You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood. 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.
“You have failed to demonstrate the self-discipline and restraint that is required of service personnel on operations, and which sets British troops apart from the enemy they fight.”
The judge said: “Of course sitting in a courtroom in middle England is a far cry from the brutality of the conflict in Afghanistan, but you have been judged here by the board made up of service personnel who understand operational service because they too have experienced it.
“Many people have expressed views on your sentence in the media demanding a severe punishment on one hand and leniency on the other.
“However, you are not being tried by the media or by those who express themselves vociferously.
“This offence is unique and unprecedented in recent history. You were in a tough operational environment where you were legally entitled to use lethal force against the enemy.
“Whilst carrying out your duty, you came across a very seriously wounded enemy combatant. You were obliged to care for him but instead you executed him.
“That is a wholly different matter from the cases of murder in the UK normally considered by the civilian courts but we are still required by law to apply the same law which those courts are required to apply.
“The victim was particularly vulnerable because he was seriously wounded and lying helpless and in obvious pain while you considered what to do with him.
“Your actions have put at risk the lives of other British service personnel. You have provided ammunition to the terrorists whose propaganda portrays the British presence in Afghanistan as part of a war on Islam in which civilians are arbitrarily killed.
“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.
“As I have already said, committing this sort of act could well provoke the enemy to act more brutally towards British troops in retribution or reprisal.
“You were in charge of the patrol and it was incumbent upon you to set the standards. Long before you shot the insurgent you should as a senior non-commissioned officer have shown better leadership to young and less experienced men.
“In fact you abused your position of trust by involving the other junior and subordinate members of your patrol in covering up what you had done and lying on your behalf.”
Speaking through his solicitor Issy Hogg, Blackman said he was “devastated” by the sentence.
The statement read: “Sgt Blackman and his wife are devastated by the life sentence imposed upon him together with the order than he serve a minimum of 10 years before he is eligible for parole.
“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.”
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The judge told Blackman that the court was imposing a life sentence - meaning that when the Parole Board decides to release him from prison he could be recalled if he breached the terms of that licence.
After the sentencing, the Ministry of Defence released a short statement saying: “Throughout this case the Ministry of Defence has followed the independent legal process and a sentence has now been delivered.
“We respect the authority and decision of the court and it would be inappropriate of us to comment on the sentence.”