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Serving SAS member accused of lying about 2009 Taliban raid in Ben Roberts-Smith case


Ben Roberts-Smith has accused a serving SAS member of lying about a Taliban raid in 2009 when he claimed he saw the war hero execute an Afghan and order the killing of another.

The soldier’s memory has been called into question as the Victoria Cross recipient sues Nine Newspapers for defamation.

Mr Roberts-Smith is Australia’s most decorated soldier, but a fellow comrade said there were members of the military who believed Roberts-Smith wasn’t worthy of the accolades.

Ben Roberts-Smith arriving at the Federal Court in Sydney, NSW.
Ben Roberts-Smith arriving at the Federal Court in Sydney, NSW. (Kate Geraghty)

It was during a Taliban raid in 2009 the same SAS member, codenamed “Person 41”, claims he saw Mr Roberts-Smith execute an Afghan and order the killing of another.

The barrister for the war hero, Arthur Moses SC, challenged his version of the operation today.

“On this day… you saw other members of your patrol engage in heroic acts… and you were scared?” Mr Moses asked Person 41.

Ben Roberts-Smith
Ben Roberts-Smith departing the Federal Court after a day in his defamation case against Nine Newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times. (Janie Barrett)

“I don’t recall seeing any heroic acts that day,” he responded.

It wasn’t until 2020, after allegations of war crimes were printed in Nine Newspapers, that the specialist soldier says he first spoke up.

“You didn’t say anything for over 11 years. The story is to dissuade your feelings of guilt that you were unable to cut it that day as a soldier,” Mr Moses said.

“That’s incorrect,” Person 41 said.

The witness admitted to joining others in drinking from the prosthetic leg of the man Roberts-Smith maintains he killed within the rules of engagement.

Person 41 is now done on the stand. He was the first military witness, but he won’t be the last.

Twenty defence personnel will give evidence for the newspapers in the high-stakes defamation trial.

Nine, the publisher of this website, also owns Nine newspapers.



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