Crime & Justice

Australian soldier accused of war crimes media loses libel trial

Sydney, Australia, Jun 1 (EFE).- Australia’s federal court dismissed Thursday the defamation lawsuits filed by Ben Roberts-Smith, Australia’s most decorated living soldier, against three Australian media outlets that published articles in 2018 accusing him of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Judge Anthony Besanko said the articles published by the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Canberra Times were “substantially true” regarding the participation of the former elite soldier as author or accomplice of the alleged murders attributed to him and that would have occurred between the years 2009 and 2012.

He said he concluded that each proceeding must be dismissed, during the verdict in Sydney.

Roberts-Smith, 44, had filed lawsuits against three media outlets and three journalists, considering that the articles, which also accused him of harassing and threatening his colleagues and domestic violence, damaged his reputation.

One of the most serious crimes attributed to him is the alleged murder of Afghan farmer Ali Jan. Roberts-Smith allegedly pushed him down a slope when he was unarmed and handcuffed and later executed him along with another soldier in an incident that occurred in the Darwan town in 2012.

The newspapers said that in 2009, Roberts-Smith killed a prisoner, who had a prosthetic leg that was later used as a kind of trophy, and in that same incident ordered a rookie to kill another as part of his initiation process.

The magistrate sided with the media, although it said that the defamation complaint regarding the media accusation of domestic violence against his lover was defamatory, but considered it did not damage his reputation.

Robert-Smiths, awarded the Victoria Cross – Australia’s highest military award – was deployed between 2006 and 2012 six times in Afghanistan as part of the Special Air Service Regiment, an elite corps of the Defense Forces of Australia.

This lengthy process, which spanned several years and was attended by over a hundred hearings – some behind closed doors – attracted wide attention by indirectly addressing alleged war crimes committed by the Australian military in Afghanistan. EFE


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