*** Good. Semrau was putting the guy out of his misery and while the Afghan soldiers stood by, Semrau did the honourable thing. He is a good Christian and a superb soldier and this verdict is just. MS ***
GATINEAU, Qc - An unprecedented court martial has found Canadian Forces Capt. Robert Semrau not guilty of murder in a battlefield shooting in Afghanistan.
He was convicted on the lesser military charge of disgraceful conduct.
The five-member court panel, the equivalent of a military jury, spent two and a half days considering the case against the 36-year-old officer.
The dramatic legal-military saga began on Oct. 19, 2008, on a dusty battlefield in the Taliban-infested Helmand province, just west of Kandahar, the province where most of Canada's soldiers are stationed.
Semrau was part of a team of Canadian soldiers assigned to the Afghanistan National Army as mentors.
Following an intense fire fight that pitted Canadian and Afghan forces against the Taliban, an insurgent lay on the verge of death.
He had been strafed by a U.S. helicopter gunship and witnesses have described devastating injuries, including a severed leg, and a gaping hole in his abdomen.
An Afghan army captain, who was on the patrol with Semrau, testified the Taliban fighter was "98 per cent dead'' when he was found.
The trial was told that Semrau fired two rounds from his rifle into the dying man and that he'd told fellow officers after the shooting that he simply wanted to put a wounded and dying enemy fighter out of his misery.
The body was never recovered.
Semrau's lawyer had argued that the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, saying the fog of war made it impossible to get an accurate picture of what happened on that day.
But the prosecution had argued there was no doubt Semrau fired the fatal two rounds and that mercy killing was not a defence.
Semrau is a married father of two girls and had a spotless record with the British and Canadian militaries.
The trial travelled to Afghanistan to hear testimony from Afghan nationals.