Marine convicted of Taleban death: I’m a scapegoat

A ROYAL Marine convicted of murdering an injured Afghan fighter has said he has been made a “scapegoat”.
Sgt Alexander Blackman was saluted by members of the jury who convicted him. Picture: PASgt Alexander Blackman was saluted by members of the jury who convicted him. Picture: PA
Sgt Alexander Blackman was saluted by members of the jury who convicted him. Picture: PA

Sergeant Alexander Blackman quoted Shakespeare as he shot his victim in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol after the Afghan had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter.

Speaking from jail, Mr Blackman said the killing, which happened in Helmand province in 2011 while he was serving with Plymouth-based 42 Commando, was a “split-second mistake”.

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And he added he felt he was “not the same person” at the end of his tour of duty as he was when he started.

The 41-year-old said: “I have been treated like someone who had carefully planned to kill his wife, invented an alibi and buried her body in the woods. I made a split-second mistake.

“I had been sent to a brutal battlefield to fight for my country in an unpopular war. And yet at the end of my trial the establishment lined up to portray me as an evil scumbag because it suited them at the time.”

Mr Blackman, who was given a life sentence with a minimum of 10 years by a court martial after his conviction in late 2013, said his conviction was to “show the world how politically correct we are”.

“I have been made a scapegoat for all that went wrong there,” he said.

He spoke out for the first time as a campaign to mount a fresh appeal against his conviction was launched, led by author Frederick Forsyth.

At the time of killing, Blackman told the Afghan fighter: “There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.”

He then turned to comrades and said: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention.”

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During the trial Mr Blackman denied murder, saying he believed the victim was already dead and he was taking out his anger on a corpse.

On top of his sentence, he was also “dismissed with disgrace” from the Royal Marines after serving with distinction for 15 years, including tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Mr Blackman’s wife Claire said: “The fact that he is now serving a life sentence for killing a dying Taliban insurgent is just wrong - this was war.

“Had the roles been reversed that man would have tortured my husband before killing him.

“We will not give up the fight to bring Al home.”

Mr Forsyth, who is leading the campaign, said the evidence that Blackman was “nearly feral with exhaustion” was not produced at court.

“There is a very, very clear case that you can get a fighting man so tired, so consumed by battle fatigue and combat stress that he is hardly even thinking straight and there is provision in British law for that,” he said.

He claimed that at the end of Mr Blackman’s trial, all seven members of the jury “put their caps on and saluted him.”

“Honourable men do not salute a perjurer and a murderer,” he said.

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A challenge to Mr Blackman’s conviction was rejected by the Court Martial Appeal Court although his minimum term was cut to eight years because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering.

An online petition calling for his conviction to be quashed gained more than 100,000 signatures late last year.

Campaigners hope the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates suspected miscarriages of justice, will look at Mr Blackman’s case.