Plymouth protesters to march in support of murder-charged Royal Marines
PROTESTERS campaigning against the murder charges levelled at five Royal Marines for an incident in Afghanistan say they are arranging demonstration marches.
They say the marches are being arranged to coincide with the Corp's anniversary, which will be celebrated at the end of the month.
Support for the arrested Marines has gathered pace online.
Several protest pages have sprung up on social networking websites, one attracting around 60,000 supporters.
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Some are making plans to stage a demonstration both in London and in Plymouth.
Devon and Cornwall Police and Plymouth City Council were unaware of any organised peaceful protests, they said.
But the father of a Royal Marine, who is also behind a Twitter account supporting the charged commandos, said he was among those upset about the situation.
"They have a very hard job to do when they are in Afghanistan," he told The Herald.
"There really is a wide range of people supporting them."
The names of the five Marines have still not been released.
Identifying the commandos is said to be out of the Ministry of Defence's hands, as the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) take control of the case.
The SPA is an independent body that would take a similar role to the Crown Prosecution Service would in a civilian court.
Because of the nature of the incident, the trial for the marines will be carried out through a Courts Martial – a military court.
The arrests occurred after footage was found on a serviceman's laptop when he was arrested in relation to a civilian matter.
3 Commando Brigade, of which the Marines are affiliated, served in Afghanistan between April and October 2011.
The Royal Military Police (RMP) arrested the men last Thursday for the incident, which has been described as "an engagement with an insurgent", with no civilians involved.
It is believed this is the first time UK servicemen have been held on suspicion of such charges since the conflict broke out in Afghanistan.
The rules of engagement, largely derived from the Geneva Convention, dictate under exactly what circumstances British troops are allowed to open fire, whether that is to prevent an attack by the enemy or in direct contact.
The Ministry of Defence said that, like civilian police, the Royal Military Police had a maximum of 96 hours to question the men before either charging them or releasing them.
A total of nine Marines were arrested and four later released without charge pending further enquiries. During its six-month tour of duty, 3 Commando Brigade saw seven servicemen killed in action, all from Plymouth-based 42 Commando.