A Welsh Territorial Army soldier who shot dead an Afghan he believed to be in the act of laying an IED could become the first British soldier to be charged with murder in that theatre. While any charges under military law would be a decision for the independent Service Prosecuting Authority, BAFF has commented on an aspect of the case.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that:
Fusilier Duane Knott killed the Afghan in the belief that he was laying explosives intended to kill British soldiers.
But senior officers believe the man may have been an innocent farmer. Fusilier Knott, 26, could now become the first British soldier serving in Afghanistan to be charged with murder.
It comes as reservists are set to take on an increasing role in Britain's defences under Government plans for the Armed Forces.
The shooting took place during one of the most violent periods of the entire Afghan war, in summer 2010, when 13 soldiers from the unit to which Fusilier Knott was attached were killed in action over a six-month tour of duty.
Only weeks before the incident one of Fusilier Knott's closest friends, Pte Jonathan Monk – also a TA member – had been killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast while on patrol.
According to the story, Fusilier Knott says that his rifle was taken away and he was confined to base for several weeks before being sent back to Camp Bastion, where he completed the rest of his six-month tour. At Camp Bastion he was interviewed under caution by the RMP who said that he may face a murder charge in the future.
Since returning to Britain Fusilier Knott, who is still a member of the TA, claims that he has been abandoned by the Army. He says he has received no legal advice or support from the battalion since the incident.
BAFF says that a soldier in that position should have had access to independent legal advice, in theatre, before being interviewed. This is particularly so because, according to the story, he had not only been involved in the death of an Afghan, but his actions had come under immediate suspicion.
A soldier potentially facing serious charges should also receive appropriate support. If anything this becomes even more important, not less, where the case involves either a demobilised reserve forces member or an ex-regular who is no longer serving with the Colours.
These are general remarks because we have no further information about the individual case.
The Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police is said to have completed its investigation into the case, which is now being assessed by the Service Prosecuting Authority, with a decision on any charges expected within the next few weeks.
The shooting took place in summer 2010 during one of the most violent periods of the entire Afghan war, when 13 soldiers from the 1 MERCIAN battle group to which Fusilier Knott was attached were killed in action over a six-month tour of duty.
- Full report, by Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent, Sunday Telegraph - Soldier who shot dead suspected Taliban bomber facing murder charges - includes comment from Patrick Mercer MP