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"He bitterly regrets it": murder marine's wife appeals for his release

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The wife of a Royal Marine jailed for murdering an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan has made an emotional appeal for his release.

In a BBC documentary to be broadcast tonight, Claire Blackman claims her husband Sgt Al Blackman "bitterly regrets" killing the insurgent, but insists he is "no risk to society".

The 39-year-old marine, of Plymouth-based 42 Commando, was five months into a tour of Afghanistan in 2011 when he shot the Afghan militant in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol. The victim had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter just before Blackman - known as "Marine A" in court - killed him.

A damning audio recording from the helmet camera of another marine at the incident (below) captured the sound of the gunshot and Marine A telling his fellow marines, "It's nothing he wouldn't do to us", "obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas" and "I've just broke the Geneva convention."

The marine was sentenced to at least 10 years in jail last December, but has an appeal hearing at the High Court this Thursday.

Sgt Al Blackman on patrol in Afghanistan (MoD image)

"He does bitterly regret it but hindsight is a wonderful thing," Claire Blackman of Taunton, Somerset, told the BBC.

"There were so many other factors embroiled in that decision. He was in charge of all of those other lads who were in a really, really dangerous situation.

"They didn't know who else was around on the ground. They had an insurgent who had clearly had explosives on him in their midst.

"It was the end of a very long, very exhausting tour that must have just been so stressful with the amount of engagements they were embroiled in."

British marines on tour in Afghanistan (stock photo)

Blackman has been campaigning for some time to have her husband's murder conviction overturned, but she acknowledges that "it would be a very difficult decision".

"There's an awful lot of politics, international politics, tied up with this case, and I absolutely understand that, but for me, at the end of the day, this is about one man and his life, and for something not to happen because of politics just seems wrong," she said. "Bottom line, Al is no risk to society."

The marine's mother also appears in tonight's documentary - Marine 'A': Criminal Or Casualty Of War? - to defend her son.

"In my letters I write to him, I always put 'I am very proud of you son, you haven’t disgraced yourself, you haven’t disgraced us,'" Frances Blackman said. "He was doing his duty to the country, and everybody in this country and the Queen and that’s what he was sent out to do, to get rid of the insurgents."

Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan, 2011 (stock photo)

A seven-strong military board found Sgt Blackman guilty of murder last year.

Sentencing him in December, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett told him he was a disgrace to the British armed services and that the video footage of the incident showed he was not "under any immediate threat" when he fired his weapon. Other soldiers had faced similar strains without reacting in the same way, he said.

The case has already proven to be deeply divisive.

Gen Sir Nick Houghton, the head of the Armed Forces, has said that "murder is murder" and labelled the incident a "heinous crime".

But more than 45,000 people have signed a Downing Street petition calling for Sgt Blackman's immediate release.

"He’s held his hands up. What he has not done in my eyes is commit murder. He genuinely thought, and I have absolutely no reason to disbelieve him, that that insurgent was already dead," said his wife.

"He should not have discharged his weapon into him – it was the madness of the moment – and he sure as hell wished he hadn’t either but he is not a murderer."

Marine 'A': Criminal Or Casualty Of War? will air on BBC One on Wednesday 9 April at 10:35 BST

Audio recording of the incident in 2011

(warning: may cause distress)

Photos: MoD and Rex Features

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