Ex-soldier walks free on bail from Sydney jail

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The man appeared in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

A former soldier accused of the wartime murder of an Afghan villager has been granted bail after a magistrate ruled he was at risk of being attacked by Taliban sympathisers while in prison.

Oliver Schulz, 41, walked free from Silverwater Correctional Complex on Tuesday night after he was arrested last week and charged with one count of war crime - murder by the Australian Federal Police.

The AFP has alleged that Mr Schulz murdered Dad Mohammad in a wheat field while deployed in Afghanistan with the Australian Defence Force.

He is alleged to have shot Mr Mohammed, a father and struggling farmer, in the Uruzgan Province in May, 2012, the court was told on Tuesday.

He is the first Australian serviceman or veteran to be charged with a war crime under Australian law.

Vision of the incident captured on helmet cam showed Mr Mohammad being shot three times by Mr Schulz, the court heard on Monday.

Ms Atkinson told the court that Mr Mohammad appeared to stop moving after the first shot and was on his back with hands and knees raised.

On Tuesday, Mr Schulz was granted bail by magistrate Jennifer Atkinson in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court after she found he was at risk of being targeted in prison.

During a bail application on Monday, Mr Schulz’s barrister Phillip Boulten SC argued his client was at a “grave risk” of being attacked in jail by Islamic extremists and inmates who were ideologically opposed to the war in Afghanistan.

Mr Boulten pointed to the “horrific” case of Bourhan Hraichie, who was convicted of attacking his cellmate, a former soldier, by attempting to “waterboard him” and carving words into his forehead.

And Ms Atkinson said she took into account the risks posed to Mr Schulz inside jail given fellow prisoners might be hostile to the ADF’s deployment in Afghanistan.

“It’s clear it’s going to be a very difficult, if not dangerous, environment,” Ms Atkinson said, noting Corrective Services could not provide him with 24-hour protection.

The allegations were first aired when Four Corners broadcast footage in March 2020 and the ex-soldier was suspended from the ADF.

Mr Boulten said his client had known he was under investigation by the Office of the Special Investigator and the AFP since then, including when his home was raided in May 2022.

On Monday, Mr Boulten argued Mr Schulz did not pose a risk given the alleged offence occurred in armed conflict in Afghanistan a decade ago.

Mr Boulten also said Mr Schulz was not a flight risk given he had known about the investigation for several years and had not fled the country.

Barrister Sean Flood, acting for the Commonwealth DPP, argued there was a different flight risk associated with being investigated and being charged.

But Ms Atkinson said there was nothing on Mr Schulz’s criminal record to indicate that he posed a threat to Australia or its citizens.

She also said his trial would be affected by lengthy delays and may not be heard until late 2024 or early 2025.

Ms Atkinson also took into account that he would have trouble communicating with his lawyers in prison and preparing for his trial given the national security sensitivities around the case.

She agreed to release Mr Schulz on bail on strict conditions including that he hand over a $200,000 surety and not leave his home between 10pm and 5am.

He must also report to police daily, not communicate with any witness, hand over his passport and provide officers with access to his phone.

Mr Schulz also applied for a non-publication order that would prevent the media from naming him because of fears for his safety.

However, Ms Atkinson declined to make that order.