Nine newspapers’ latest attempt to defeat a gigantic libel suit launched by respected SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith can be summed up in one single question and one single moment in the remote and dusty hills of Afghanistan ten years ago.
How could a group of illiterate Afghan residents and an elite SAS soldier recount the same heartbreaking details of an alleged assassination by a war criminal if it never happened?
A federal court in Sydney is in the final stages of a defamation trial of the century between a Victoria Cross recipient and a media company.
Judge Anthony Besanko heard evidence from dozens of SAS veterans over more than 100 days of testimony.
One soldier, known as Man 4, turned out to be perhaps the most important witness at the trial.
Person 4 refused to testify on one allegation that he executed a prisoner on the orders of Mr. Roberts-Smith in 2009.
But he testified about a mission in 2012 in the city of Darwan, where he claimed Mr Roberts-Smith threw a detained shepherd named Ali Jan off a cliff.
Man 4 claimed to have seen a handcuffed Afghan tumble down a slope, his head hitting a rock, “pulling” a tooth out of his mouth, before the seriously injured man came to a stop in a dry creek bed.
The SAS soldier took the third soldier, his best friend known as Man 11, and then executed the Afghan as Mr. Roberts-Smith watched.
Person 4’s testimony, according to Nine, is consistent with what three Darwan villagers told the court via video link from Kabul.
Nine’s lawyer on Tuesday called the testimony of Person 4 and the Afghans an undeniable consistency, pointing only to the guilt of Mr. Roberts-Smith.
“(The Afghans) were all talking about being in that final complex, seeing a tall soldier wet from the waist down, seeing someone being thrown off a cliff, all at the same time, at the same day, in the same place. Man 4 described,” Mr Owens told the court.
“There is no attempt (on the part of Mr. Roberts-Smith) to explain how it is possible that the testimony of Person 4, a soldier on this side of the world, could match so closely with the testimony of three Afghan witnesses on the other side of the world. world. “
Mr. Owens claimed that one of the villagers correctly described the SAS military working dog, the number of ADF helicopters, troop movements, the “cliff-hit” all consistent with what SAS witnesses later told the court.
The details offered by the villagers could not be “smartly” inserted or “fabricated” unless they were real Darvan locals and real eyewitnesses to the raid, Mr Owens told the court.
Mr. Owens’ comments came at the very end of the lawsuit, 10 years after the SAS raid on Darvan and four years after nine newspapers first published war allegations against Mr. Roberts-Smith.
These articles prompted Mr. Roberts-Smith to sue for libel – he denied each charge while Nine defended the truth.
The newspapers eventually claimed that Mr. Roberts-Smith either pulled the trigger or ordered his fellow patrol members to execute the six unarmed and detained Afghans.
Lawyers for Mr. Roberts-Smith on Monday urged Judge Besanco to view the case as an attempt to restore the good name of a war hero and a man who was falsely accused of murder.
“A man who suffered, who was once known as a hero, but now, thanks to (Nine), has become a man who is widely reviled as a murderer and rapist of women,” lawyer Matthew Richardson told SC.
The final performances continue.
Originally published as One of the key issues in the “trial of the century” in the Roberts-Smith defamation case