Aussie hero investigated over ‘war crimes’
The country's most celebrated soldier has been accused of a shocking act against a handcuffed Afghan soldier following a major investigation by Australian reporters.
On Sunday evening, an explosive edition of 60 Minutes revealed "the unpalatable truth about a group of men Australians think of as heroes" - including Victoria Cross for Australia recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.
The investigation focused on the death of Afghan farmer Ali Jan, who was killed on September 11, 2012 - 11 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks that sparked the war in Afghanistan in the first place.
Two weeks earlier, an Afghan army sergeant named Hekmatullah opened fire on Australian troops, killing Rick Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Robert Poate at point blank range and then fleeing.
After that, the Special Air Service was tasked with tracking Hekmatullah down.
They eventually received a tip-off that he was in the village of Darwan - a village Ali Jan happened to be visiting to collect flour for his family.
A group of men in the village, including Ali Jan, were detained and questioned by Australian troops.
The farmer was handcuffed and taken to a compound near a sandy cliff - but an SAS insider told 60 Minutes things soon took a brutal turn.
According to reporter Nick McKenzie, witnesses claim Ali Jan's hands were bound before he was taken from the compound to the cliff.
The witness claimed that the man was then placed on his knees near the edge - before an Australian soldier "took a short run-up" and kicked him "like a scene from the movie 300".
And in a shocking twist, the insider - whose identity has been withheld - claimed the man responsible was none other than Australia's most famous soldier.
"The individual who kicked the detainee off the cliff was Ben Roberts-Smith," the man told the program.
"The allegation is that he was kicked off the cliff, and then was executed at the bottom of the cliff" (by another soldier).
60 Minutes has reported the incident is now being investigated by the Australian Federal Police, and according to the Sydney Morning Herald, "the military Inspector-General is also investigating Ali Jan's treatment as an alleged war crime and also dispatched investigators to Afghanistan".
Ben Roberts-Smith - who was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia - has denied the allegations, saying they were made by critics who are jealous and envious of his success.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Roberts-Smith has denied any wrongdoing and has also "initiated defamation proceedings against Nine", which owns the publication, over several articles published in 2018 that reported on allegations that Mr Roberts-Smith had been implicated in war crimes.
The insider claims Ali Jan's death, which he said was caused by a separate, unnamed soldier and not Roberts-Smith, was the result of pressure within the military to "chalk up kills".
"I don't know why they did it. I just don't know why they did it. I just don't know why blokes took the law into their own hands. But I honestly think because they weren't being watched and it was for some of them maybe it was just chalking up kills," he said.
It was a sentiment echoed by West Australian Federal MP and former SAS Captain Andrew Hastie, who told the program there was a risk that a small number of his special forces' colleagues were beginning to chase kills.
West Australian Federal MP and former SAS Captain Andrew Hastie says there was a risk that a small number of his special forces’ colleagues were beginning to chase kills. #60Mins pic.twitter.com/Y62gpJHJcj— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) September 22, 2019
According to 60 Minutes, Ali Jan "wasn't the only one allegedly executed by Australian soldiers".
Other incidents are reportedly being investigated, including another execution which allegedly took place on October 3, 2012.
In that incident, which is not alleged to have any connection to Roberts-Smith, an Australian commando allegedly shot a prisoner of war in the back of the head at point blank range.
The man responsible for the death allegedly wrote a confession which has been seen by 60 Minutes - and it reveals he now lives with "enormous regret" - but that he was following orders from his superior.
Meanwhile, Ali Jan's widow Bibi Dhorko is calling for justice, insisting her husband was innocent
"He was innocent. He went to bring flour for his children," she told 60 Minutes.
"I am so sad it becomes hard for the day and night to pass. I keep thinking about why this happened to me, why is he gone for no reason? Why did such cruelty happen?
"He was not Taliban. There was no gun. He knew nothing about guns. He hated the Taliban.