Roberts-Smith set to testify after delay

·2-min read

Australia's most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith is set to testify when his high-profile lawsuit resumes against media outlets accused of defaming him over claims of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Mr Roberts-Smith's testimony at the Federal Court defamation trial was expected to begin on Wednesday after the completion of his barrister Bruce McClintock's opening address, but it was pushed back to Thursday when the trial was adjourned early in Wednesday's morning session.

The court in Sydney has previously been told some of Mr Roberts-Smith's testimony will be aired in open court, while other parts of his evidence will occur behind closed doors.

Mr Roberts-Smith is slated to be the first of around 60 witnesses expected to be called to give evidence at the judge-alone trial, which is estimated to run for up to 10 weeks.

Other witnesses to be called at the trial will include identification witnesses, reputation witnesses and a forensic accountant, the court has previously been told.

Mr Roberts-Smith, 42, is suing the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times over articles from 2018 related to his SAS tours in Afghanistan, arguing they depicted him as a criminal who broke moral and legal rules of military engagement.

He is also suing over claims he assaulted a woman in Canberra.

The Victoria Cross winner denies all the claims against him, while the newspaper publishers are defending themselves on the basis of truth.

The war hero has so far been painted at trial as a courageous and self-sacrificial soldier who fell victim to a lying campaign by "bitter people" and failed soldiers jealous of his military success.

The trial has been told that Mr Roberts-Smith lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in income after his reputation as Australia's most respected soldier was "smashed" by the media reports, and that he is seeking aggravated damages from the respondents.

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