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Witness denies cover-up with Roberts-Smith

Ben Roberts-Smith
An ex-SAS soldier has denied concocting a false story with Ben Roberts-Smith over an alleged murder. Photo: AAP
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A former SAS soldier has denied concocting a false story with Ben Roberts-Smith to cover up their involvement in the alleged murder of an Afghan prisoner.

The witness codenamed Person 11 resumed giving evidence for the war veteran on Wednesday and was questioned about a September 2012 mission in Darwan, in the Uruzgan province.

Person 11 told the Federal Court his troop under patrol commander Mr Roberts-Smith had travelled across a dry creek bed when he spotted an insurgent near cornfields about 15 metres away.

He said the individual was moving in a suspicious manner and was carrying a radio, leading to an assessment he was a Taliban spotter.

“So I engaged,” he said on Tuesday.

It backs up his good friend Mr Roberts-Smith’s testimony that the man was lawfully shot in a cornfield within the rules of engagement.

It has been alleged the dead man was in fact a handcuffed prisoner named Ali Jan, kicked off a steep cliff by the Victoria Cross recipient and executed down below by Person 11.

On Wednesday Nicholas Owens SC representing the media outlets put the allegation squarely to the witness.

“You and Mr Roberts-Smith have concocted a false story to say there was a spotter in a cornfield to cover up the fact Mr Roberts-Smith kicked a (prisoner) off a cliff and you shot him in the cornfield.”

“That is not correct,” Person 11 replied.

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing for defamation The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald over 2018 media reports claiming he committed war crimes in Afghanistan including murder, and acts of bullying and domestic violence.

The 43-year-old denies all claims of wrongdoing, while the mastheads are defending them as true.

In court Person 11 said he saw the insurgent wearing an Icom radio, but Mr Owens said his outline of evidence suggests the radio was discovered during the search of the body.

Person 11 also denied inventing his evidence on the fly to bolster their story.

“You have overnight realised the evidence you gave in court yesterday was inconsistent with your outline of evidence,” Mr Owens said.

“I disagree.”

He also disputed the suggestion he would not have been able to see the radio 15 metres away through thick vegetation he estimated was up to 2.1 metres high.

Another patrol member dubbed Person Four previously testified seeing the prisoner being “catapulted” over the edge of a steep slope by Mr Roberts-Smith.

“Your Honour it knocked out a number of his teeth including his front teeth,” he told the court in March.

After hearing shots ring out Person Four said he observed Person 11 standing in a position to shoot before the radio was planted on the body.

On Wednesday Person 11 was asked about his relationship with Person Four, the best man at his 2015 wedding.

After allegations of war crimes surfaced, Person 11 said he told his former mentor and good friend their personal relationship was over.

“I felt incredibly hurt that someone who was so close for a number of years … would have said such things that caused me so much grief and heartache,” he said.

The trial continues.

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– AAP