UK

Five marines charged with murder get anonymity

Badge from a Marine Commando green beret
Image caption A hearing was told of a "real and immediate risk" to the marines

The identity of five Royal Marines charged with murder after an incident in Afghanistan will not be disclosed, the judge advocate general has decided.

The men will have anonymity until their court martial finishes, Judge Blackett has ruled.

The decision may be reviewed when court proceedings have concluded.

All five have been charged with the murder of an unknown Afghan national contrary to Section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.

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

The Marines first appeared at a 'behind closed doors' hearing in October when an interim order was made, preventing the publication of their names due to a "real and immediate risk" to their lives.

The men - who were released from custody on 22 October and sent back to their barracks - will be known throughout their court martial as Marines A, B, C, D and E.

'Lone wolves'

A special hearing to decide whether the identities of the men should be released was held on Monday at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire, to allow the media to challenge reporting restrictions.

Cmdr Blackett was given written submissions from members of news organisations, challenging the interim ban.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) also submitted a "threat assessment", detailing whether the men, if identified, were at risk of attack from terrorist organisations.

Former defence intelligence officer Anthony Tucker-Jones also spoke after being instructed to do so by Marine B's legal team.

After considering the evidence, the judge announced on Wednesday that the lives of the defendants would be put at risk if their names were revealed.

Cmdr Blackett said: "The risk comes from organised terrorist activity and 'lone wolves' who are unpredictable.

"In this respect, members of the armed forces are entitled to be treated differently from civilians within this country at this moment in history."

He added that the Marines were "entitled to protection from terrorists" who may plan revenge attacks.

"I am not prepared to take a chance with these men's lives," he concluded.

If the Marines are found not guilty, the anonymity order will remain, Cmdr Blackett ruled.

But if convicted, the judge said the issue of identification will be reviewed.

The next hearing is scheduled for 10 December at the court centre in Bulford.

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