News publishers are challenging the government to release a video showing a British Royal Marine killing an Iraqi insurgent, despite fears it could be a propaganda “gift” to terrorists.
The Guardian, BBC, ITN, Times Newspapers and Sky are all calling for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to release the video in the interests of open justice, with the matter set for a court hearing at a later date after MoD papers were submitted late.
Sgt Alexander Wayne Blackman, 42, was convicted of murder at a court martial in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison, serving a minimum term of ten years, since reduced to eight on appeal.
Footage from another marine’s camera showing Blackman shooting dead a wounded Taliban fighter in Helmand Province in September 2011 was used to convict him. Two other marines were acquitted of the murder.
In the video, Blackman can be heard telling the man: “Shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt,” and telling his fellow marines: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere, fellas … I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.”
Still images and audio were released at the time of the trial, but the MoD succeeded in preventing the release of the full video, claiming it would be a propaganda gift to terrorists wishing to harm the UK.
According to The Guardian, Paul Mott, the deputy head of the government Research Information and Communications Unit, said: “I’ve seen nothing that surpasses it in terms of radicalisation potential. It’s exceptionally worrying. There’s nothing I have seen that… matches its emotional power. It is a gift in propaganda terms.”
Newspapers were unable to identify the servicemen during their trial at a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, owing to a court order preventing the names being made public. This was later overturned by the High Court after an appeal from publishers.
Blackman’s conviction is set for a hearing at the court martial appeal court next month following an investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
According to The Guardian a barrister for the Daily Mail, which has campaigned for Blackman to be freed, said the newspaper was “neutral” on the issue of the full video being released.