Trial of anti-war sailor facing more delays over suitability of the judge

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THE court martial of a Royal Navy sailor who refused to go to Afghanistan is facing further delay amid legal wrangling over whether the judge should oversee the trial.

On April 1, the lawyer for navy medic Michael Lyons put in a submission for Judge Alastair McGrigor to stand down.

Barrister Fiona Edington argued the public may perceive the judge to be biased in favour of convicting Lyons because he was previously a prosecutor for the RAF in the 2004 trial of Mohisin Khan, a Muslim air reservist who refused duty in Iraq as a conscientious objector.

After two weeks of deliberation, the judge yesterday ruled he considered himself fit to oversee the court martial at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth.

He said a ‘fair-minded and informed’ member of the public would not think he is biased, adding: ‘I reject the defence’s submission to excuse myself from this case.’

Ms Edington has until May 6 to appeal the judge’s ruling. If an appeal is made it will go to the Court Martial Appeals Court in London, which could take weeks to resolve.

If there is no appeal, the trial will begin on a date yet to be determined.

Lyons, 24, who was not in court yesterday, is accused of refusing to take part in rifle training ahead of a tour in Afghanistan.