Marines dismissed over assault
Published 07/04/2010 | 17:32
Two Royal Marines have been dismissed for assaulting an Afghan prisoner with a Wellington boot after he had been detained on suspicion of planting a roadside bomb.
Sergeant Mark Leader, based at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon, was found guilty by a court martial panel of assault causing actual bodily harm to Mohammad Ekhlas on March 19 last year. His colleague Captain Jody Wheelhouse, from 45 Commando, Arbroath, Scotland, admitted the same offence at an earlier hearing.
Wheelhouse was sentenced at the HMS Nelson court martial centre at Portsmouth Naval Base, Hampshire, to dismissal with disgrace, while Leader was dismissed.
Judge Michael Hunter said: "This was a sustained assault on an injured and unarmed prisoner, a middle-aged Afghan man who was suspected of being part of a group who were attempting to plant an improvised explosive device (IED). It is understandable that those who have seen the effects of these devices should feel a degree of hatred or emotion towards those who plant them, especially when in Sergeant Leader's case they had lost friends.
"But acts such as this against an unarmed man undermine the standards of our armed forces and undermine everything our armed forces are trying to achieve in Afghanistan and puts the lives of our personnel in even greater danger."
Bob Williams, representing Wheelhouse, said that the 25-year-old had entered the service less than two years before the incident and had had a "promising career" ahead of him.
He said that Wheelhouse had been "parachuted" in to Afghanistan immediately after completing his training and had been left to "sink or swim".
Mr Williams added that Wheelhouse admitted striking Mr Ekhlas twice to the body with the boot. He said that the officer had only joined in the assault as he was following the example of Leader, who was his troop sergeant.
Marcus Tregilgas-Davey, defending Leader, said that the 34-year-old, who had served for 17 years, disputed that the assault was his idea. He added that Leader was set to lose up to £400,000 in pension and other benefits through his dismissal from the service.
Leader, a married father of a five-week-old son, had claimed that he had only hit Mr Ekhas because he believed he was trying to escape custody but the court martial panel declared they did not believe this version of events.