Sydney, Australia, June 29 (EFE).- Former Australian soldier Ben Roberts-Smith agreed Thursday to pay the costs generated by the legal battle he launched – and lost – against three media outlets that published articles accusing him of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Lawyer Nicholas Owens, who represents the Nine media group, to which the three publications implicated in the lawsuit belong, said in a hearing before the Federal Court that Roberts-Smiths accepted “that it must pay the costs as compensation from the Mar. 17, 2020”.
However, the lawyer said it’s still unknown whether the ex-soldier should also bear the expenses prior to that date, according to the Australian public television channel ABC.
On June 1, Judge Anthony Besanko of the Australian Federal Court dismissed claims by Roberts-Smiths – Australia’s most decorated living soldier – against the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Canberra Times newspapers.
They had published articles in 2018 denouncing him over alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, as well as harassment, threats to his partners and domestic violence.
The magistrate considered the publications, which pointed to Roberts-Smith as the author or accomplice of alleged murders that would have occurred between 2009 and 2012 in the Afghan war, as “substantially true.”
In 2019, the ex-soldier sued the three newspapers for defamation and, a year later, the media trial began, in which it is estimated that the Nine group paid about AUD 30 million ($19.9 million) to defend themselves.
In the same session Thursday, Australian state lawyer Joe Edwards said the Special Investigation Office into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan requested access to “sensitive” documents on the case from the court for national security reasons.
Australia is investigating the alleged war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan by its troops between 2005 and 2016, after multiple allegations came to light.
Edwards said he intends to ensure “national security information (used) in a civil proceeding does not have the inadvertent effect of thwarting or impairing the conduct of ongoing criminal investigations,” according to ABC.
Roberts-Smith, 44 and recipient of 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 Australian Defense Force.
This lengthy process, which spanned several years and had more than a hundred hearings – some behind closed doors – attracted wide attention by indirectly addressing alleged war crimes committed by the Australian military in Afghanistan. EFE