Cliff claim 'fanciful', Roberts-Smith says

·3-min read

War hero Ben Roberts-Smith has described claims he kicked a prisoner off a cliff during an SAS operation in Afghanistan in 2012 as a "fanciful story".

Mr Roberts-Smith, 42, has been on the witness stand for a second day at his defamation trial at Sydney's Federal Court, brought against the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times.

He is suing the outlets over articles from 2018 that he says depict him as a criminal who broke moral and legal rules of military engagement on tours of Afghanistan.

The decorated war veteran rejects the claims, while the publishers advance a truth defence.

Mr Roberts-Smith on Friday gave evidence of an SAS action in Darwan, Uruzgan province, on September 11, 2012 during which he said he moved up an embankment with another soldier, codenamed person 11, and "engaged" an insurgent in a cornfield.

The court was told Mr Roberts-Smith fired three to five rounds at the insurgent who was moving around in the cornfield and later found a radio on the dead fighter's body.

"It made absolutely perfect sense that this guy was a spotter," Mr Roberts-Smith said.

He denied claims that he kicked a person under control, known as a "PUC", off a cliff higher than 10 metres then dragged him across a creek bed.

"There was no kick," Mr Roberts-Smith said.

"There was no PUC and no one was dragged across a creek bed."

He said if there had been a PUC, the prisoner would have been backloaded to a "PUC holding area" and the team's extraction point would have needed to be changed.

Mr Roberts-Smith told the court he felt "disappointed" at the claim that he labelled a "fanciful story" and said he "absolutely" did not think it right to kill Afghan prisoners.

"I've never killed an unarmed prisoner," he told the court.

In his evidence, he also denied claims of an alleged murder of an adolescent Afghan on a mission on November 5, 2012 and rejected, on another occasion, telling a soldier - codenamed person 16 - that an alleged killing was "the most beautiful thing I've ever seen".

He labelled some claims by the respondents against him as "outright malicious".

Earlier, Mr Roberts-Smith told the court that a Victoria Cross for his actions in Afghanistan in 2010 "put a target" on his back for other soldiers to undermine him.

After recounting details of the Battle of Tizak for which he was awarded the VC, Australia's highest military honour, he said the attitudes of some fellow troopers towards him changed and the award became his "cross to bear".

He said the VC made him a "tall poppy" and "broadened" attacks on him from other soldiers who wanted to undermine him out of "pure spite".

"You take it on the chin and you keep moving forward," he said.

He has previously described claims against him made in the reports as devastating, saying he spent his life fighting for his country and did everything he could to act in combat with honour.

In his evidence, Mr Roberts-Smith has denied that he killed a captured Afghan insurgent with a prosthetic leg in 2009, bullied another SAS soldier, or punched and kneed a detained Afghan.

He has also rejected claims he drank from the dead insurgent's prosthetic leg at an SAS pub in Afghanistan called the "Fat Ladies Arms".

Mr Robert Smith also denies claims that he assaulted a woman at a hotel in Canberra.

The trial has heard he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in income after his reputation was damaged by the articles, and that he is seeking aggravated damages.

The judge-alone trial, set to run for 10 weeks, is expected to hear testimony from 21 current and former SAS members as well as a number Afghan villagers.

Mr Roberts-Smith continued giving evidence in closed court on Friday.

The trial continues before Justice Anthony Besanko.

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