Plymouth Diver Tonia Couch voices her support for murder-arrest Royal Marines
OLYMPIC diving star Tonia Couch has tweeted her support for the Royal Marines arrested in the murder probe.
After the arrest of seven servicemen on Thursday Tonia posted a link to a Facebook page, titled Support the 7 Royal Marine Commandos arrested for murder in Afghanistan, which has now been 'liked' by almost 39,000 people.
The page was set up before a further two marines were arrested and five were formally charged.
The 10m high board diver, whose boyfriend is a Royal Marine, told The Herald she thought "everyone should support them".
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"Everyone should look twice at this – it's a hard situation they are in," she said. "They are out there to do a job and that is what they are doing. I just want to show my support to them," she added.
Emblazoned with the Royal Marine Commando dagger that appears on troopers' uniform, the Facebook page said it was enjoying support from all over the world including Germany, New Zealand, Australia and America.
The group was launched on Thursday, the day the MoD announced the arrest of the personnel.
In the information section about the page, it states: "This page is set up to show support for the seven Royal Marine Commandos arrested for murder for an event which happened in Afghanistan 2011 where no civilians where injured and one gunman killed which shot at them FIRST".
It read: "Every one of them needs to know that we as their country of birth are behind them 100%.
"Come on people time for the British bulldog spirit."
One member wrote on the page: "They are out there, risking their lives, to protect us and this is how our government repays them. Shame on you MoD...."
Another wrote: "My dad was a RM Commando and this is disgusting, disgraceful and appalling what's happened.... I'm starting to think it's one rule for some and another for us!"
Social networking sites and unofficial websites for serving and former military personnel have been awash with comments on the case.
Many have focused on the Rules of Engagement, the laws established by the Geneva Convention under which the armed forces operate.
FIVE ROYAL MARINES CHARGED WITH MURDER
FIVE Royal Marines believed to be from Bickleigh-based 42 Commando have been charged with murder following an incident in Afghanistan last year.
Seven Marines were arrested on Thursday, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Royal Military Police (RMP) had arrested two more Marines on suspicion of murder, one on Friday and one on Saturday, taking the total number of arrests to nine.
Four have since been released without charge, pending further inquiries.
All five of the accused men are believed to be members of 42 Commando Royal Marines, based at Bickleigh. They had been on tour in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick and had recently returned to the UK. A statement from the MoD said: "The RMP has referred the cases of the remaining five Royal Marines to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA).
"Following direction from the SPA these marines have now been charged with murder and they remain in custody pending court proceedings."
The Royal Military Police (RMP) arrested the soldiers in connection with an incident which occurred while they were based in Helmand last year.
The incident was described as "an engagement with an insurgent", with no civilians involved, and an investigation has been launched by the Service Justice System.
The rules of engagement, largely derived from the Geneva Convention, dictate under what circumstances British troops are allowed to open fire, whether that is to prevent an attack by the enemy or in direct contact.
During its six-month tour of duty 3 Commando Brigade saw seven servicemen killed in action, all from Plymouth-based 42 Commando.
The arrests are thought to be the first time UK servicemen have been held on suspicion of such charges during the conflict in Afghanistan.