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Soldier’s grief over best man’s allegation

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing Nine newspapers in the Federal Court after the media outlets accused him of killing unarmed Afghan prisoners while deployed with the SAS.Their centrepiece allegation is that, in 2012, the elite soldier kicked an unarmed, handcuffed Afghan farmer off a cliff in the village of Darwan.An SAS soldier known as Person 4 told the court, in February, that he watched the farmer tumble down the rocky incline and into the dry creek below.The shepherd, Ali Jan, had shattered his teeth on a rock on the way down and was badly injured when Person 4 and his close mate, a soldier known as Person 11, dragged him across the dry creek bed.Person 4 told the court he turned his back and heard gunshots ring out – when he turned back he saw Person 11 with his weapon raised and Mr Roberts-Smith watching on.Three years later, the court heard this week, Person 4 was best man at Person 11’s wedding.But their close relationship, which developed through multiple deployments with the SAS, is now totally broken.Person 11 told the court he became aware in 2018 that Person 4 was behind allegations he had executed a prisoner – known in military slang as a PUC – at Darwan.“I felt incredibly hurt by that,” Person 11 told the court on Wednesday.“That someone so close for a number of years, a mentor, a good friend not just professionally but personally, would have said such things that caused me so much grief and heartache.”Person 11 said he wrestled with the knowledge that his best man, who had never said anything about the allegation to his face, had effectively accused him of murder.The SAS soldier told the court he spoke to counsellors but eventually decided to call his mate.“It was brief, but I laid out I was hurt deeply, disappointed, and that I was aware of what was going on,” Person 11 said.“And from this time forward our personal relationship was over.”If the two men, who were both still serving in the ADF in 2018, came into contact through their work then that would be the only contact they would have, Person 11 said.Person 4, the court has heard, had become emotional talking to friends in the months following the Darwan raid telling his friends and superiors he had witnessed a PUC kicked off a cliff and executed. A mission log, tendered to the court, records an “EKIA” or “enemy killed in action” at 11:09am, shortly before the Australian forces flew out of Darwan and back to base.Mr Roberts-Smith and Person 11 have both vehemently denied Person 4’s claim and instead say the EKIA in the final moments of the Darwan raid was a Taliban scout – a “spotter”.Person 11, in his evidence, said he was moving with Mr Roberts-Smith and Person 4 to an helicopter landing zone on the edge of Darwan and had crossed the dry creek bed.When he emerged into the field on the far side of the dry creek, Person 11 said, he saw an Afghan move from a crouching position and trying to remain hidden in the cornfield, carrying a radio.Person 11 and Mr Roberts-Smith have both told the court they opened fire and killed the man, and photographed his body with the radio.Nine’s barrister, Nicholas Owens SC, said that is a lie.“You and Mr Roberts-Smith have concocted a false story… to cover up the fact Mr Roberts-Smith kicked a PUC off a cliff and you shot him in that field,” the barrister said on Wednesday.“That is not correct,” Person 11 responded.The trial continues.

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