Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith walks in to Sydney’s Federal Court ahead of his defamation trial….
Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith walks in to Sydney’s Federal Court ahead of his defamation trial.
For the first time the public can see the “cliff” from which Ben Roberts-Smith allegedly kicked an unarmed prisoner in what Nine newspapers claim was an unlawful SAS murder in rural Afghanistan.
The Federal Court, on Tuesday, released high resolution photographs of the remote Afghan mountain village of Darwan which was raided by the SAS in 2012.
Nine newspapers claim Mr Roberts-Smith, during the raid, kicked handcuffed farmer named Ali Jan off a cliff and had him executed in the dry creek bed below by an allied Afghan soldier.
Mr Roberts-Smith denies Nine’s allegation and is suing them for defamation saying he never committed any unlawful killings while deployed during his celebrated military career.
Ali Jan’s step-nephew, Mohammed Hanifa Fatih, returned to the witness box for questioning by Mr Roberts-Smith’s legal team.
The lifelong Darwan local has told the court he saw a “big soldier” with “blue eyes, kind of brownish” kick Ali Jan down into the creek but did not see him dragged away or shot.
At the same time the court uploaded the photographs of Mr Hanifa’s village.
The photographs had been marked by Mr Roberts-Smith during his own evidence weeks earlier.
Mr Roberts-Smith had marked “A” where many of the SAS squads remained as his group of men pushed further into the village in the 2012 raid.
The compounds marked “X”, Mr Roberts-Smith said, were not inspected by SAS troops.
Point “B”, according to Mr Roberts-Smith’s evidence, represents a rooftop where he says his squad waited for extraction at the end of the mission.
However “B” is also the approximate area where Nine claims Mr Roberts-Smith kicked Ali Jan into the dry creek bed.
Mr Hanifa told the court he had been detained alongside Ali Jan and interrogated by the “big soldier” and an interpreter who held a gun to his head.
That was before “the big soldier” kicked Ali Jan into the creek, he told the court.
Mr Roberts-Smith and Nine’s lawyers sparred during his evidence about whether Darwan even had a cliff to kick someone off.
The elite soldier seemed perplexed looking at photographs and images showing a steep embankment or incline down into the creek.
“A cliff is a cliff – and that’s not a cliff to me,” Mr Roberts-Smith had told the court.
Mr Roberts-Smith also marked, on the photograph of Darwan, a path down the embankment and through the creek, where the SAS veteran says his squad walked on their way to an extraction helicopter.
The dotted line ends near what appears to be a field lined by trees on the edge of the creek.
That point, according to Nine, is where the injured Ali Jan was executed by an Afghan soldier on the orders of the SAS troupe.
Mr Hanifa, in his evidence this week, said he followed a trail of blood to Ali Jan’s body below a berry tree – bullets had ripped through his step-uncle‘s head, stomach and hand, he said.
Mr Roberts-Smith told the court that field is actually where an SAS soldier, known as Person 11, shot a Taliban “spotter”.
Mr Roberts-Smith told the court the man shot in the cornfield was found with an ICOM radio on his body.
An emotional Mr Hanifa said Ali Jan was no Taliban spotter and never carried the ICOM radios used to relay information about coalition troops to the local insurgent network.
Mr Hanifa, under questioning by Mr Roberts-Smith’s barrister Bruce McClintock SC, also denied his brother was a Taliban fighter.
But Mr Hanifa agreed with Mr McClintock that he disliked the foreign soldiers and they were known as “infidels”.
“If they come into our houses, go to our women, of course we call them infidels,” Mr Hanifa responded.
Mr McClintock had suggested Mr Hanifa’s brother had died fighting for the Taliban. Mr Hanifa denied that, saying his brother died in a fight with a cousin after being hit in the head with a stone.
He insisted his family were civilians, not Taliban. But, he said, he knew a Taliban fighter known as Abid had died on Darwan’s outskirts the morning of the raid.
Mr Roberts-Smith had swum across the Helmand River to shoot the insurgent who was hiding in rocks with a rifle on the water’s edge.
Mr Hanifa, on multiple occasions, has mentioned “the big soldier” had a wet, sandy uniform.