close
close

Former Veterans Affairs Minister Could Go to Jail After Name Withholding Request Denied

A former veterans affairs minister could potentially face jail time after his request not to reveal the names of people who tipped him off about alleged special forces killings was rejected by the chairman of the Afghanistan Commission of Inquiry.

Sir Charles Haddon-Cave’s ruling on Thursday cited the values ​​and standards of the British military, stating: “Integrity requires the moral courage to do the right thing, even when it is unpopular.”

Mr Mercer has repeatedly refused to name the “numerous officers” who told him of allegations of murder and a cover-up while he was a private MP while giving evidence at the inquest in February.

Former Veterans Secretary Johnny Mercer attends a national event to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day in the UK (Andrew Matthews/PA)

In a previous order ordering the former Conservative MP for Plymouth to hand over the names, the committee chairman said that failure to comply without reasonable excuse would be a “criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine”.

Mr Mercer then filed an application for an inquest on 3 April, arguing that he was either unable to comply with the order or that it would not be reasonable for him to do so.

He later accused the inquiry committee of “ignoring quite serious evidence” in order to “focus” on pressuring him to provide names.

In his judgment on Thursday, Sir Charles said: “The applicant claims to be an advocate for whistleblowers.

“However, he publicly chose to reveal that friends had informed him of allegations of unlawful killings committed by (special forces) in Afghanistan.

A spokeswoman for the inquiry said: “Mr Mercer is refusing to disclose information that may be important to the public inquiry seeking to establish the truth behind serious allegations of multiple murder involving British special forces.

“Mr Mercer acknowledges that security measures have been put in place as part of the investigation to protect the names and identities of his sources of information and that witnesses coming forward to the investigation are protected from the risk of prosecution for breaches of the Official Secrets Act or for failing to report misconduct.

“The Chair has given Mr Mercer a further two weeks to comply with the Article 21 notice.

“In conclusion, the chairman stated that “Integrity requires the moral courage to do the right thing even when it is unpopular.””

Mr Mercer now has until July 25 to submit the names to the commission of inquiry.