Australia's most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith has rejected allegations that he was involved in a war crime in Afghanistan seven years ago.
The allegations, broadcast in an extensive report on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes on Sunday, came from two anonymous sources who claimed former corporal Mr Roberts-Smith had instigated the execution of an Afghan farmer Ali Jan in September 2012.
"I categorically deny the allegations made against me in tonight’s 60 Minutes program,” Mr Roberts-Smith said in a statement.
"I am concerned that tonight's story and the previous publications by the SMH/Age are an attempt to improperly influence the outcome of the (Inspector-General of the Defence Force) inquiry.”
The program was the result of an investigation by the The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes.
The allegations claim Mr Roberts-Smith was part of an operation to find an Afghan army sergeant who had fled after shooting dead Australian soldiers Rick Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Robert Poate.
In their search they detained farmer Ali Jan and allegedly took him to a cliff edge in handcuffs.
The sources, identified by the program as defence insiders, claim the man was forced to kneel down before Mr Roberts-Smith kicked him off the edge.
Reporter Nick McKenzie said it had been described to him as like “a scene from the movie 300”.
It is then alleged that the soldiers agreed the man, injured at the bottom of the cliff, would be shot dead by another soldier.
“I think they actually thought they were above the law,” one of the sources told 60 Minutes.
A Defence inquiry and a criminal investigation by the Australian Federal Police on the matter is reportedly in progress.
AFP officials travelled to Afghanistan to gather evidence and acquire witness reports.
Mr Roberts-Smith told The Australian that the evidence from the sources to support the “false allegations” was “weak”.
The Victoria Cross and Medal of Gallantry winner last year launched legal action against the publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times and three journalists over articles alleging war crimes and domestic violence.
Speaking to 60 Minutes in Afghanistan, Ali Jan’s widow, Bibi Dhorko said she and her family has struggled to come to terms with his death.
“He was innocent. He went to bring flour for his children,” she said.
“I am so sad it becomes hard for the day and night to pass. I keep thinking about why this happened to me, why is he gone for no reason? Why did such cruelty happen?”
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