Roberts-Smith trial adjourned three weeks

·2-min read

Ben Roberts-Smith's high-profile defamation trial over allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan has been adjourned for three weeks due to Sydney's COVID-19 outbreak.

Mr Roberts-Smith, 42, is suing three newspapers at a Federal Court trial in Sydney over media reports from 2018 alleging he was involved in murders and bullying in Afghanistan.

The former SAS operator is also suing over a claim he punched a woman at a Sydney hotel.

On Tuesday, Justice Anthony Besanko adjourned the trial until July 19 after the respondents' barrister Nicholas Owens SC flagged on Monday difficulties calling key SAS and domestic violence witnesses based in other states due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In adjourning the trial, Justice Besanko said he was not persuaded that a "stop-start" approach to proceedings was desirable and that "only time will tell" whether current restrictions in Sydney would expire or be extended on July 9.

He listed the matter for mention in three weeks with a view to the trial recommencing a week later to run through August and into September.

"At this stage ... I will attempt to hear the trial once it recommences to its conclusion," Justice Besanko told the court.

The trial entered its fourth week on Monday and is expected to run for 10 weeks in total.

It has previously been told there will be testimonial evidence from 21 current and former SAS members as well as several Afghan villagers.

Other notable witnesses set to testify include federal Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and Mr Roberts-Smith's ex-wife Emma Roberts.

On Monday, it heard evidence from former Liberal politician and Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson who was called as a reputation witness for Mr Roberts-Smith.

Mr Roberts-Smith's legal team has closed its case, which has painted the war hero as a victim of a lying campaign by failed soldiers jealous of his stellar military career.

His lawyers argue that the applicant lost hundreds of thousands of dollars after his reputation was damaged by the media reports and his speaking business "evaporated".

Mr Roberts-Smith denies all the claims against him while the media outlets are running a truth defence.

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