Ben Roberts-Smith denies killing captured man as he gives evidence in defamation case

Ben Roberts-Smith has labeled as “ridiculous” claims he killed a captured Taliban insurgent with a prosthetic leg in a SAS operation in Afghanistan in 2009.

Mr. Roberts-Smith, 42, issued the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times in the Federal Court for defamation over media reports from 2018 that paint him as a criminal who breached the moral and legal rules of military engagement. Australia’s most decorated soldier is also suing over reports alleging he assaulted a woman in a Canberra hotel room.

He denies all the claims against him, while the publishers advance a truth defense.

On Thursday, Mr. Roberts-Smith was called as the first witness at the trial. His barrister Bruce McClintock SC questioned him about a SAS operation in April 2009 on a Taliban compound known as Whiskey 108 in Uruzgan province. The court heard Mr. Roberts-Smith, carrying a belt-fed machine gun, was one of several SAS soldiers who entered and cleared the compound after being requested to assist the Australian infantry in a battle against the Taliban. After the SAS patrol cleared the building,g Mr. Roberts-Smith spotted an insurgent holding a bolt-action rifle outside the compound.

“I engaged that individual,” Mr. Roberts-Smith told the court.

He rejected claims he shot the insurgent 10 and 15 times, saying he fired two rounds, and denied claims that he carried the man, calling that assertion “ridiculous”.

He later discovered that the killed insurgent had a prosthetic leg but rejected claims in court that the man had been a “person under control”.

“It makes me feel very disappointed,” he told the court of that claim.

“That’s so far from the truth it’s not funny … ridiculous.”

Ben Roberts-Smith leaves the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday, 10 June 2021.

The court heard he later saw another soldier, codenamed person six, take the insurgent’s prosthetic leg that was subsequently used as a drinking vessel at the SAS pub in Afghanistan known as the “Fat Ladies Arms”.

Mr. Roberts-Smith said he never drank from the leg, but he didn’t have a problem with “gallows humor” as a way for soldiers to desensitize from the horrors “outside the wire”.

In his evidence, Mr. Roberts-Smith also rejected claims of bullying while in the SAS and denied punching and kneeing an Afghan male in an operation in March 2010.

Did that happen?” Mr. McClintock asked him.

“No,” Mr. Roberts-Smith replied.

The court was adjourned late in the afternoon when he broke down in tears recounting details of the SAS action at the 2010 Battle of Tizak, for which he was awarded Australia’s highest military honor, the Victoria Cross.

Earlier in the day, he described claims by the respondents critical of his war service as “devastating”. “I spent my life fighting for my country, and I did everything I possibly could to do it honorably,” he told the court.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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