Australian Afghan War Veteran Denies Allegations of War Crimes

Elias Hubbard
June 8, 2021

He also described as "ludicrous" allegations Mr Roberts-Smith could have killed an unarmed man outside "in full view" on a mission.

Bruce McClintock, SC, previously told the Federal Court that Dame Quentin would be called as a reputation witness in the former soldier's case against Nine newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. It has unsurprisingly been dubbed the "trial of the century".

Mr Roberts-Smith, through his legal team, denies he punched the woman after they returned to their hotel because her behaviour had threatened to expose their tryst.

A notice board in the SAS base, Mr McClintock said, had "BRS is after another medal" scrawled on it after Mr Roberts-Smith returned from a mission.

He argued his client had up until the end of previous year lost $475,000 from his public speaking business and wasn't able to proceed with a partnership at an accountancy firm which would have been more lucrative than his executive position at Seven West Media.

Mr Roberts-Smith launched the civil action in 2018 over the media reports that he says accused him of murder during his 2009 to 2012 tour of Afghanistan with the SAS.

Bruce McClintock, Mr Roberts-Smith's lawyer, told the court his client's reputation had been destroyed by "corrosive jealousy" and "bitter people" who had run a "poisonous campaign against him".

Ben Roberts-Smith and his former wife Emma Roberts.

Mr McClintock said other soldiers had been "enormously jealous" about the honours awarded to Mr Roberts-Smith - which include the Victoria Cross - and had sought revenge with claims he "broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement".

Mr McClintock said the alleged execution of Ali Jan Bakir had been the "centrepiece" of Nine's sprawling allegations against his client and it was entirely false.

His parents Len and Sue Roberts-Smith have come to Sydney to publicly support their son.

He told the court while Mr Roberts-Smith had once been "inundated" with invitations to Anzac Day services, this year he received none.

'We never expected that our son would be unfairly attacked in this manner after he served his country in Afghanistan with distinction and risked his life'.

Nine have claimed one witness, known only as Person 1, was bullied by Mr Roberts-Smith.

Person 10, the court heard, fired bursts of his machine gun but would not answer when Mr Roberts-Smith asked what he was shooting at.

In his lawsuit, Mr Roberts-Smith alleges Nine's newspapers and its journalists Nick McKenzie (pictured), David Wroe and Chris Masters defamed him in the then Fairfax press in 2018.

Much of Tuesday's proceedings before Justice Anthony Besanko are likely to be closed to the public due to national security evidence, the court heard.

Australia's military and police are both investigating numerous war crimes alleged to have been committed by members of elite SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.

He also denied his client ever "blooded" soldiers, or gloated about killing an adolescent Afghan after stopping a group of men travelling in a Toyota Hilux in 2012.

The Federal Court trial will last for eight to 10 weeks, with around 60 witnesses expected to take the stand, a court official said.

Character witnesses will then testify on his behalf.

The court also heard there had been a "very serious diminution" in Mr Roberts-Smith's future earning capacity and that the former soldier was offered a partnership at a large accounting firm which he declined after hearing of the allegations.

The barrister said Mr Roberts-Smith holds his fellow veterans in high regard, but he was subjected to "tall poppy syndrome" as his reputation increased.

The barrister detailed how Mr Roberts-Smith won his Victoria Cross by storming two machine gun nests and killing many Taliban "insurgents".

One of his barristers, Arthur Moses SC, told the Federal Court last Friday evidence showed Ms Roberts "had access" to an email account used by Mr Roberts-Smith to speak with his lawyers about an inquiry into Army conduct in the Afghanistan war.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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