Page last updated at 20:30 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Royal Marine guilty of boot attack on Afghan prisoner

Royal Marines in Afghanistan
The prisoner needed four stitches to his lip, the court martial was told

A Royal Marine has been found guilty at a court martial of attacking an Afghan prisoner with a Wellington boot.

The hearing at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, was told Mohammad Ekhlas was assaulted in Afghanistan after his Royal Military Police guard left him in a tent.

Sgt Mark Leader had denied assault causing actual bodily harm to Mr Ekhlas, 48, on 19 March 2009.

Colleague Capt Jody Wheelhouse admitted the same offence at an earlier hearing. They will be sentenced at a later date.

Injuries photographed

The court martial heard Mr Ekhlas was apprehended east of Sangin in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, on suspicion of planting an improvised explosive device.

He was subjected to violence - considered as being legitimate force - after his arrest, the court was told.

Mr Ekhlas was then transferred to a base just over a mile away where his injuries were photographed before he was taken to a tent usually used by sick service personnel.

A female Royal Military Police soldier guarding him had to leave the tent for a short time, putting the two Royal Marines in charge.

The court heard that Mr Ekhlas was then assaulted by Sgt Leader, of Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, Devon, and Capt Wheelhouse, of 45 Commando, Arbroath, Angus.

Handed over

The Afghan suffered injuries in addition to those shown in the previous photographs, and needed four stitches to his lip, had a cut on his forehead and two of his teeth were loose.

Sgt Leader had claimed he used lawful violence against Mr Ekhlas in self-defence.

But the court heard that the sergeant said of Mr Ekhlas: "I don't know why they brought him back. They should have killed him."

A court martial panel found Sgt Leader guilty of the offence after deliberating for three and a half hours.

The court was told Mr Ekhlas was later handed over to the Afghan authorities and released, and cannot now be traced.

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