Lawyers for Ben Roberts-Smith vehemently denounced Nine’s case as an “embarrassment”, saying they failed to uncover why the recipient of the Victoria Cross allegedly went from a decorated hero to a “psycho-killer” who killed six unarmed Afghans.
The SAS veteran’s legal team also questioned why Nine did not call a key witness who was said to have been involved in a war crime despite “knowing where he was”.
A defamation suit brought by Mr Roberts-Smith against Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age is in its final days in Sydney’s Federal Court after more than 100 days of gathering evidence.
Lawyers for the Nine spent most of the week trying Judge Anthony Besanco through testimony from key witnesses, mostly SAS veterans, alleging inconsistencies or worse.
The newspapers claimed that Mr. Roberts-Smith traveled the world to meet fellow SAS veterans accused of helping him carry out executions in order to “conspire” with their testimony to war crimes investigators.
Mr. Roberts-Smith’s lawyer, Arthur Moses, S.K., said Nine poses as “pseudo-military investigators” but they look less like criminologist Sherlock Holmes and more like dreamy Walter Mitty.
“Mr Roberts-Smith, a veteran of the Australian Defense Force who served his country with distinction… A soldier who received the most impressive records of his duty and service to his country without any criminal charges,” said Mr. Moses. , listing Mr. Roberts-Smith’s medals, including the Victoria Cross and the Medal of Valor.
“This same soldier… apparently a psychopathic killer – seriously?”
On Friday, Mr. Moses appeared incensed, saying that Nine had not provided a motive for Mr. Roberts-Smith’s alleged crimes because there could be none.
Mr. Roberts-Smith detained hundreds of Afghans on hundreds of missions, Mr. Moses told the court, and there was no reason why he would kill six of them.
“According to (Nine), he is a person who goes from acts of gallantry … to one who, for no apparent reason, violates the rules of engagement to kill or be an accomplice in the killing of detained Afghan men on six different occasions, Mr. Moses said .
Nine allege that one in six war crimes-related killings occurred in late 2012 in the Chenartu region, when the SAS was working alongside an Afghan special forces force known as Wakunish.
Nine and an SAS witness told the court that Roberts-Smith was interrogating a group of Afghan detainees when a weapons cache was discovered nearby.
Mr. Roberts-Smith, claims Nine, ordered a Wacuan commander known as Man 12 to execute one of the detainees, allegedly for the weapon.
Mr Roberts-Smith and one of his SAS witnesses deny this happened – one of Nine’s witnesses insists he saw the alleged murder.
On Friday, the court heard that Person 12 was not called to testify, despite the fact that Nine knew where he was.
“(Nine) didn’t try to call him… they know where he is,” Moses said.
“Are there any concerns that he might not support their cause?”
Despite dozens and dozens of witnesses and months of testimonies, the marathon trial did drag on for a few moments in Afghanistan over a decade ago.
One such moment is a raid on a Taliban compound known as Whiskey 108, where Nine claims that Mr. Roberts-Smith executed a prisoner and ordered a junior soldier to execute a second.
He denies these claims.
One witness, known as Person 24, told the court that he witnessed a captive firing a large shoulder machine gun. Nine claims it was Mr. Roberts-Smith.
We just witnessed the execution? Man 24 claims to have told another soldier.
Mr. Moses on Friday said it was a Seinfeld lie.
“This witness backs the court dictum, ‘It’s not a lie if you believe it,’ with an apology to George Costanza.”
One of Mr. Roberts-Smith’s main accusers, known as Person 7, told the court that he was Ninth’s source for some of the allegations of serious war crimes, as well as general “gossip” about Mr. Roberts-Smith’s life.
The court heard tapes of his meetings with reporters, including allegations about Mr. Roberts-Smiths family, his parents and even his childhood behavior.
Man 7 agreed that he was upset and often annoyed that Mr. Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross despite serious allegations against him.
Mr Moses took aim at Man 7 on Friday
“He would even make Mrs. Mangel of Neighbors blush with his amount of gossip,” he said.
“His gossip made people suspicious of Mr. Roberts-Smith, which turned into a belief that he was a war criminal.”
The final debate will continue next week.
Originally published as Lawyer for Ben Roberts-Smith quotes Seinfeld and Neighbors in court