Two marines cleared of murdering Afghan captive

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MURDER charges against two Royal Marines accused of killing a captured Afghan national have been dropped.

The pair, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were among five marines facing a court martial, charged with murder.

Three other commandos are due to enter pleas next month at the Military Court Centre in ­Bulford, Wiltshire.

The Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) said the decision was made as part of their “duty to conduct a continual review” of the evidence.

The alleged incident is believed to have happened on or around 15 September, 2011, while the servicemen were on active duty in Afghanistan.

In a statement, the SPA said proceedings against the marines, known only as D and E, had been discontinued.

It said: “On 5 February, 2013, the SPA decided to discontinue court martial proceedings in respect of two of marines, D and E, on the charge of murder.

“This decision flows from the SPA’s duty to conduct a continual review of all the evidence collated to date. This decision will be declared formally at the next hearing of this case before the court ­martial.”

It said proceedings would continue against the three other marines, known as A, B and C.

An anonymity order, granted last year to protect the identities of the five by judge advocate General Jeff Blackett, remains in force.

Making the ruling last November, the judge said the defendants would be at “real and immediate risk” from “organised terrorist activity and lone wolves”, if their names were made public.

The marines were arrested by the Royal Military Police in October, after allegedly suspicious video footage was found on a serviceman’s laptop by civilian police in the UK.

It is believed to be the first time UK servicemen had been arrested and charged with ­murder during the Afghanistan conflict.

Men from 3 Commando Brigade, which included both 45 Commando, based at Arbroath, and Plymouth-based 42 Commando, were in that part of Afghanistan at about the time the alleged incident took place.

But the MoD has refused to disclose the unit with which the men were serving. During the tour of duty, 3 Commando Brigade lost seven servicemen killed in action, all from 42 Commando.

Last October, protesters held a series of peaceful marches and rallies across Britain demanding justice for the five marines facing murder charges They included 60 supporters, mainly ex-servicemen, who gathered outside St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, wearing green lapel ribbons and ­carrying placards bearing the slogan “Justice for the 5”.

The show of support was organised by former Royal Highland fusilier Brian Coutts. He said: “This is the first time I can remember, certainly in my lifetime, where a soldier has been arrested for the murder of someone who was known to be an enemy. These guys have been asked to do a job – how can you do it with one hand tied behind your back?

“It’s going to come to a stage where a solider there in conflict is going to wonder, ‘should I pull the trigger and risk my life and the life of my comrades?’ That hesitation could cost them or other people their lives.”