THOUSANDS of patriots have descended on Westminster in protest at the treatment of “hero” marine Alexander Blackman, who was controversially jailed for killing a Taliban fighter.
Protestors held up placards bearing pictures of the brave soldier, who was locked up after a court martial found him guilty of murder in a decision which sparked outrage nationwide.
The decision to jail Sgt Blackman – known throughout his trial as Marine A – has been called into serious question amid accusations he was used as a “political scapegoat” to appease the corrupt Afghan government.
His 75-year-old mother Frances was amongst the crowds marching through London today and thanked those who turned out to pile pressure on ministers to review the case.
Thousands of people showed their support for the jailed marine, despite the Ministry of Defence issuing a chilling order to serving personnel warning them they were banned from attending.
Insisting the order from military bosses was “wrong” she said: “At the end of the day I think the Marines will do what they want to do.
“I hope it is going to help him, that is all we can hope for. The point is he should not be where he is – he was doing his duty.
“We are very proud of him and this has not changed our opinion of him at all.”
The 41-year-old Royal Marine sergeant was jailed for life in December 2013 after helmet cam footage emerged showing him shooting a dying Taliban insurgent who had been mortally wounded by an airstrike.
In the footage the trooper can be heard telling the militant – who had been involved in an attack on a British compound – to “shuffle off this mortal coil” before putting a bullet in his chest.
A trial heard how his team of marines were coming to the end of a gruelling tour during which they had witnessed unimaginable brutality, including one instance when the Taliban strung up the body parts of their comrade from a tree.
Sergeant Blackman has always maintained he thought the insurgent was dead when he fired the shot and that he was taking out his stress on the body.
In an interview from prison he admitted he had made a “split-second mistake” but said he was under pressure after being “sent to a brutal battlefield to fight a war for my country”.
But a panel at a court martial hearing convicted Sergeant Blackman of murder by a majority of five to two.
His mother added: “He said to me, ‘I should not have done it, mum. He was dead but still I should not have shot him. But I was so frustrated’.
“It is lucky his father is not alive, because this would have broken his heart.
“He is keeping himself busy, he has got a job in the prison library and helps teach others to get their GCSEs.
“He is doing a graduate course himself and he goes to the gym. He tries to go every day if he can.
“It is hard for me but I think it is harder for his wife [Claire] because they have only been married for four years.
“The prison officer said to me, ‘take him home.’ They don’t think he should be there.
“And I said, ‘If he weighed the same as he did when he was a baby, I would stick him under my t-shirt’.”