Accused soldier Ben Roberts-Smith has strongly denied the most dramatic murder charged against him – that he kicked an unarmed and handcuffed Afghan civilian off a cliff before ordering him to shoot him – and told a court that the accusation was false and ” completely malicious. “
“It feels like you’re in a fucking nightmare,” he told the court during a trial day. “Every time they write it I ask myself: ‘How am I in this position?'”
The alleged murder of an Afghan farmer named Ali Jan in the village of Darwan on September 11, 2012, has become the centerpiece of a series of allegations of wrongdoing directed against Roberts-Smith in articles published by three Australian newspapers in 2018.
In the newspapers’ defense documents in court, Ali Jan is alleged to have been handcuffed during an SAS raid in Darwan. When helicopters arrived to “take out” the Australian soldiers, Roberts-Smith allegedly took Ali Jan to the edge of a small cliff and forced him to kneel.
Roberts-Smith is then alleged to have “kicked him hard in the stomach, causing him to fall over the cliff and land in the dry creek bed below. The impact of the fall into the dry stream below was so significant that it knocked Ali Jan’s teeth out of his mouth. “
“[Roberts-Smith] ordered a soldier under his command to kill Ali Jan, which he did. “
The court is expected to hear later from other soldiers who were in Darwan that day, as well as the Afghan villagers present and Ali Jan’s relatives.
Roberts-Smith told the court that the murder never happened and that he had never killed an unarmed prisoner.
He said that at the end of the raid in Darwan that day, he was following another soldier, anonymized in court documents as Person 11, who was walking along a dry creek bed toward the extraction point of the helicopter.
Person 11 climbed an embankment and immediately “confronted” – opened fire on – an alleged “observer”, a man hiding in a cornfield.
Roberts-Smith said he climbed the embankment to support Person 11 and fired “three to five rounds” at the man, who “was falling or falling.”
The man died and, Roberts-Smith said, was found in possession of a radio.
Roberts-Smith rejected a question: The radio was placed on the man’s body as a ‘knockdown’, a compromising piece of equipment that the soldiers carried and placed over the bodies of the victims as a post-facto justification for their murder.
He said the man was an “observer”, an advanced scout who reports soldiers’ movements to militants and therefore a legitimate target, killed within the rules of engagement.
“He was behaving in a way that was consistent with the activity of the enemy observer … it is not a normal ‘life pattern’ to sit in cornfields,” he told the court.
The patrols he had been involved in had been attacked “four or five times” while being extracted by helicopter, Roberts-Smith said.
When asked by his attorney, Bruce McClintock, if any element of the accusation of killing an unarmed ‘PUC’ – ‘person under control’ – was true, Roberts-Smith was categorical.
“There was no kick… there was no PUC.
“I can’t believe that a fantastic story like that can, much less be believed, be printed on paper and kept for several years … none of that adds up, nothing makes sense.”
Roberts-Smith also denied another murder charge, according to which he killed an unarmed boy, aged 15 to 18, who was traveling with three men in a Toyota Hilux stopped by an Australian SAS patrol “on or around October 21, 2012 of that date “. .
The defense documents of the newspapers allege that the adolescent was “registered and detained by Person 16 (a soldier of the SAS) and then handed over to [Roberts-Smith’s] patrol for questioning, along with the other occupants of the Hilux ”.
“At the time, the Afghan teenager was visibly extremely nervous,” the documents allege.
The newspapers later alleged: “One or two days after the mission, Person 16 told [Roberts-Smith], in essence, ‘What happened to the young man who was shaking like a leaf?’
“[Roberts-Smith] he replied, in essence, ‘I shot that cunt in the head. Person 15 (another soldier) told me not to kill any assholes on that job, so I took out my 9mm and shot him in the head. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. “
Roberts-Smith told the court on Friday that he never said those words and that the event could not have happened, because he never fired his pistol in combat while he was deployed to Afghanistan.
“I never had to fight with my gun,” he told the court.
Since the accusation was made in court documents, it emerged that Roberts-Smith was in a different part of Afghanistan on October 21, 2012. Australian War Memorial documents show that Roberts-Smith was leading a reconnaissance patrol at Char-Chineh on that date, for which he would receive commendation for his distinguished service.
Since then, in defense of newspapers, the date “on or around” has been changed to November 5 of the same year.
Roberts-Smith said the publication, and the replay, of the indictment was extremely hurtful.
“I felt like they were being downright malicious because they knew I wasn’t there, but they still wanted to say so.”
Earlier Friday, Roberts-Smith told the court that his Victoria Cross became a cross to wear, saying he “put a target on my back” for other soldiers jealous of his medal.
The former decorated corporal detailed in detail his missions in Afghanistan and the tensions within the SAS when soldiers were sent back for repeated deployments in a long, tough and costly war.
Roberts-Smith is suing Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times for defamation over a series of reports published in 2018 that he alleges are defamatory because they portray him as someone who “broke the moral and legal rules of military combat” and committed crimes, including the murder.
The 42-year-old has consistently denied the allegations, saying they are “false”, “without foundation” and “completely without any foundation in the truth.” The newspapers defend their reports as true.