Judge refuses to release Afghan 'murder' footage

Bulford Military Court Centre
Image caption The trial is taking place at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire

Video allegedly showing a Royal Marine shooting dead an injured insurgent in Afghanistan will not be released to the public, a judge has ruled.

Three Royal Marines, known as Marines A, B and C, are charged with murdering the unknown man while on duty in 2011.

Marine A is accused of the shooting, while Marines B and C are said to have been "party". They deny the charges.

The judge rejected a media application, saying the video would expose service personnel to "increased risk of harm".

The footage was shown to the jury at a military court last Wednesday, on the opening day of the marines' court martial.

The court heard that the footage was taken in Helmand in September 2011 by Marine B on his helmet-mounted camera.

It allegedly shows Marine A - a sergeant - shooting the already badly injured man in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol.

'Propaganda threat'

The voices of all three accused can be heard on the video, with Marine A saying "shuffle off this mortal coil… It's nothing you wouldn't have done to us," and later: "I have just broken the Geneva Convention."

Several British newspapers, as well as broadcasters including ITN, BSkyB and the BBC, applied to the court for the release of the footage, arguing that the principle of open justice meant that the video already shown in court should be available to the public too.

The Ministry of Defence opposed its release and instructed a barrister, Oliver Glasgow, to address Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett, while the media had instructed Clare Kissin on their behalf.

The judge also received submissions from Paul Mott, deputy head of the research, information and communications unit in the office of security and counter-terrorism in the Home Office, who warned of the risks of the video footage being used for propaganda purposes against British forces serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On Monday, the judge rejected the media's application.

In a written judgement, the judge advocate general said: "The principle of open justice can be satisfied and has been satisfied by the DVD being played in open court where it has been observed by journalists and reported upon quite properly. Releasing it for unrestricted public consumption would expose British service personnel to increased risk of harm unnecessarily.

"Mr Mott says that the risk is real and immediate and I accept that assessment. I am not prepared to ignore his very stark warning to put the lives of British service personnel at risk.

"I therefore rule that the DVD is not to be released to the media."

An MoD spokesman said: "This video would undoubtedly be exploited by terrorists for propaganda purposes and, as the judge advocate general accepted, its release would pose a real and immediate threat to life for members of our Armed Forces, the wider British public and British interests overseas."

The court martial continues at the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire, with the defence expected to start on Wednesday.

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