SSNS Home > Senior Years > Curricula 9-12 > Grade 11 > Canadian History > Remembrance Day > Murders at the Château d’Audrieu > 19 June 2010


Wounded insurgent was alive before soldier shot him, court martial told
Matthew Fisher, Canwest News Service, 19 June 2010


Matthew Fisher’s update on Semrau’s trial added new details on proceedings. In the middle of June 2010, the court martial moved to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan to hear testimony from Afghan witnesses. One of them was Semrau’s interpreter, a young man known as “Max.” Max reported that shortly after a “U.S. army Apache helicopter had blasted the insurgent from a tree,” he and Capt. Semrau arrived on the scene. At that time, the wounded man “was moving ... he moved a little.” “I saw he [Semrau] shot him,” Max testified, adding that the Canadian officer had aimed his weapon “at his [the wounded fighter’s] head,” a point he illustrated by assuming “a posture that indicated that ... [Semrau] had aimed his rifle at the head of the insurgent.” He was “about five metres” away from Semrau at the time, and he clearly saw “the smoke of the barrel.”

A considerable portion of Fisher’s article was devoted to Max himself.

Max entered the court dressed in an elegant, loose-fitting red shirt with gold trim and two-tone, stonewashed dark denim trousers. Even before swearing an oath on the Qur’an to tell the truth, he greeted everyone in the court with a cheery “Hello gentlemen.”

... Much of the interpreter’s evidence, which was given in fluid but heavily accented English, was unsolicited. He often rushed to tell his version of events without waiting for questions from lawyers about an incident that resulted in Capt. Semrau being brought up on five charges, including second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment.

In an amusing interlude while formally giving evidence, Max could not remember the name of another soldier who witnessed the shooting, but agreed that the man was a driver known to him as “the fat Canadian.”

Max testified that the shooting upset Capt. Shafiq, the senior Afghan on the patrol, who asked Semrau afterwards.

“‘Why you do this? Why do you kill him? You must tell me first before you do this.’ He looked angry and disappointed,” Max said. But Max said he could not remember what Capt. Semrau subsequently said to Capt. Shafiq before the 12-hour-long patrol returned to its base.

Max maintained that the insurgent was alive when they found him, and that he had "lost one leg, part of another leg and a finger and also had a wound in 'his belly.'" However, under cross-examination, he agreed that “the insurgent’s eyes were closed and that there were no signs that he was breathing.” He also agreed that “since the incident had occurred some time ago, it was ‘possible’ that he did not remember everything he had witnessed.”

Fisher also noted a small detail that may provide some insights into Max’s mindset at the time of the trial.

Max also said that he had applied to emigrate to Canada under a special program for interpreters who have helped its troops here. He said he hoped that the nearly three years of work he had done for Canadian mentoring teams and the testimony he had given the court martial would ‘”help” him in his bid to emigrate.

Discussion: Why is the personality and demeanour of witnesses important in evaluating their evidence? Is Fisher hinting here that Max’s evidence may be suspect? What in his article suggests that Max’s evidence could be unreliable?