Lawyers for Ben Roberts-Smith make explosive claim during trial

Lawyers for SAS veteran Ben Roberts-Smith have seized on official military files to make a huge claim in his defamation trial.

By Perry Duffin, Senior Court Reporter

Nine newspapers claim Ben Roberts-Smith executed a captured teenager at a remote outpost in Afghanistan – but the brutal allegation appears to have been dealt a damaging blow after the court heard official military documents show the young Afghan was released alive.

Mr Roberts-Smith sued Nine newspapers for defamation saying they falsely accused him of killing six unarmed Afghans while deployed with the SAS.

Nine insists the 2018 articles about the Victoria Cross recipient are true.

One allegation is that a group of four Afghan males was stopped driving a HiLux laden with improvised explosive components near the town of Fasil and the occupants detained by the SAS.

Mr Roberts-Smith denies Nine’s claim he executed a teenager in the group with a pistol and boasted the shot to the head was “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”.

Nine showed the court photographs of the other prisoners, who were numbered, back at the Australian base in Tarin Kowt – and one prisoner number was missing.

It was said that the missing prisoner photograph indicated one detainee was executed by Mr Roberts-Smith.

But, during closing submissions on Tuesday, Mr Roberts-Smith‘s barrister, Arthur Morses SC, said Australian Defence Force documents, made for that SAS mission, tell a different story.

“That serious allegation… of murder that has been propounded in this case, comes with a problem for (Nine); there is no eyewitness who saw this alleged execution,” Mr Moses said.

“The contemporaneous Defence Force documents to which we‘ve averted to, in our submissions, confirm the release of an adolescent male prisoner.”

“And that explains why there is no photograph of him taken back at Tarin Kowt.”

The documents have not been publicly revealed and were shown to Justice Anthony Besanko in closed court, away from the public including members of the media.

Mr Moses said the documents meant there was just one, lone voice in Nine’s case left to hold up the murder allegation in Fasil – an SAS soldier known as Person 16.

Person 16, in his evidence earlier this year, told the court he helped detain the Afghans.

The young Afghan was “shaking like a leaf” before being led away by Mr Roberts-Smith, Person 16 testified.

Person 16 said he later asked Mr Roberts-Smith what happened to the scared teenager.

“I shot that c*** in the head,” Person 16 claims Mr Roberts-Smith responded.

“(I) blew his brains out, it was the most beautiful thing I‘ve ever seen.”

Mr Roberts-Smith totally denied the claim with his legal team casting it as the words of an “ostentatious psychopath”.

Mr Moses, on Tuesday, said Nine relied on Person 16’s words alone because “there was nothing else there” to prove the murder allegation.

The closing submissions in the Federal Court will continue this week, representing the final bid by both legal teams to convince Justice Besanko at the end of the marathon trial.



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