Supporters vow to fight on for Royal Marines sergeant cleared of Taliban murder

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High-profile supporters of Sergeant Alexander Blackman have welcomed the ruling to overturn his murder conviction for shooting an injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan.

They will now fight to get the Royal Marine released from prison.

One of his biggest supporters, author Frederick Forsyth said: ‘It’s not over yet - we always wanted justice, a very elusive word much used seldom achieved, it’s a two-bladed weapon.

‘Firstly, one blade to get a man who should never have been in prison out of prison, secondly we go after those people who wrongly, and I think villainously, put him there.

‘The establishment won’t do that, now it’s our job - we’re the media, we do the examining, we uncover things that we’re not supposed to know.

‘So I think from now on what really happened there is down to you, and I think we’ll do our job just as well as the lawyers did theirs and the judges did theirs.

‘Because there are things that need to be said about what was done to that man and who did it to him and why and how they got away with it so far, but not much further.

‘So back to the media now - the other ones who will not be discouraged from doing what has to be done.’

Colonel Oliver Lee, who resigned from the Royal Marines in protest at the treatment of Sgt Blackman, welcomed today’s decision.

‘I am delighted by the outcome today in the Royal Courts of Justice,’ he said.

‘It has been a long process to get here, but I am very pleased that Sergeant Blackman has now been dealt with justly and fairly.

‘This has been my sole intention throughout these proceedings. My only hope now is that the many lessons from this tragic case will be learned.’

Col Lee was Sgt Blackman’s commanding officer when the Taliban insurgent was shot dead.

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, a former Army officer who served three tours of Afghanistan during his 12-year military career, said: ‘I have always maintained that Sgt Blackman was subject to an unfair process.

‘We must always look after our people, however unpalatable for some that may be. I am no apologist for him, but justice must be done.’

Sgt Blackman was suffering from an ‘abnormality of mental functioning’ at the time of the killing, an appeal court has ruled.

As five judges reduced his murder conviction to manslaughter, they found that the 2011 incident was not a ‘cold-blooded execution’ as a court martial had earlier concluded, but the result of a mental illness - an ‘adjustment disorder’.

Blackman, 42, from Taunton, Somerset, had his murder conviction overturned by the Court Martial Appeal Court in London and replaced with a verdict of ‘manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility’.

There will now be a further hearing at a date to be fixed to decide on the sentence he now has to serve.

Blackman, who was not present for the ruling, was convicted in November 2013 by a court martial in Bulford, Wiltshire, and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 10 years. That term was later reduced to eight years because of the combat stress disorder he was suffering from.

After the latest decision in the case was announced by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas on Wednesday, Blackman’s wife Claire said she was ‘delighted’, adding: ‘This is a crucial decision and one which better reflects the circumstances my husband found himself in during that terrible tour in Afghanistan.’