Australia’s most decorated soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, has stood down as general manager of Channel Seven in Queensland while he sues Nine News for defamation.
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing Nine over a series of articles accusing him of committing war crimes in Afghanistan.
The network alleges the former special forces corporal is being investigated for killing six Afghans outside combat while deployed in the Middle East.
The high profile trial is set to start in June.
Mr Roberts-Smith will take leave from his role at Channel Seven while the defamation case is afoot.
Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton confirmed the decision in an all-staff email on Monday.
He said Mr Roberts-Smith was standing aside “to focus on his upcoming legal matters”.
“Ben and I believe this mutual decision is best for both him and our company. We expect Ben to return to his role upon the completion of his defamation proceedings,” Mr Warburton wrote.
“As the trial is currently set down for eight weeks, it’s likely that won’t be until after August.”
Mr Roberts-Smith landed in strife a few weeks ago after he was recorded in leaked audio praising boss Kerry Stokes but disparaging other Seven West Media staff.
The surprise announcement came hours after Mr Roberts-Smith launched an extraordinary attack on the country’s military top brass for their “disgusting” treatment of veterans.
He also accused military commanders of running Australia’s longest war in Afghanistan from the safety and comfort of Dubai, without ever having a campaign strategy.
The Victoria Cross recipient scolded the “staggering” lack of direction.
Mr Roberts-Smith thanked the Australian public for helping push for a royal commission into veteran suicides in the face of resistance, warning it would uncover systemic failures and flaws.
“It’s what we need to do to protect the future of the military and more importantly, the people that are willing to sacrifice everything,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
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