The Courier-Mail

War hero returns fire

- FINN MCHUGH

AUSTRALIA’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith has slammed fresh allegation­s against him as “baseless”, while the Seven Network has confirmed he will continue in his current role with the company.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes and Nine newspapers published secretly recorded audio of Mr Roberts-Smith vowing to “destroy” those levelling war crimes allegation­s against him, and lauding Seven boss Kerry Stokes for financing his legal fight.

The report also accused the Victoria Cross recipient of burying a USB containing images of misconduct by soldiers in his back yard.

But in a statement yesterday, Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyers lashed the allegation­s as “baseless” and vowed to continue a defamation suit against journalist Nick McKenzie and Nine newspapers.

The lawyers claimed the allegation­s were not put to Mr Roberts-Smith before they were aired, and that he feared they were an attempt to intimidate him out of pursuing legal proceeding­s.

“The allegation­s aired (Sunday) evening are baseless. These allegation­s are not supported by any evidence filed by Mr McKenzie and Nine in what has been an extensive pre-trial process,” the statement read.

“Mr Roberts-Smith denies that he has engaged in any unlawful conduct and he will not be intimidate­d by Mr McKenzie or Nine into not continuing with the Federal Court proceeding­s against them.”

The Seven Network also confirmed it had no intention of standing Mr Roberts-Smith aside from his role as the company’s Queensland managing director. It noted Mr RobertsSmi­th’s denial of the claims and said there was “no need to reconsider” his job.

“Insofar as most of the material aired is old, Seven notes that it is before the Federal Court and the court process should be respected,” Seven said in a statement.

“Insofar as new allegation­s are made they do not appear to be supported by evidence.”

The Seven Network is run by Kerry Stokes, also the chairman of the Australian War Memorial, who has bankrolled Mr RobertsSmi­th’s legal defence over war crimes allegation­s.

In audio aired during the 60 Minutes program, Mr RobertsSmi­th was heard saying Mr Stokes would “go all the way” in supporting his defence.

“There’s no f--king way I’d be able to keep paying … until Kerry got into it,” he said.

“That’s why now they’re sh-ting themselves because he’s prepared to run his bank down to do it.”

Mr Roberts-Smith noted his surprise he was able to retain his job as a senior executive while under investigat­ion, saying Seven had “been good” ” to him.

The re- port also revea led images on n military y bases in Affghanist­an n and Australia a apparently depicting various forms of soldier misconduct, which it alleged were kept on a USB buried in Mr Roberts-Smith’s Queensland back yard.

One image appeared to show soldiers drinking from the prosthetic leg of an Afghan man (below), allegedly taken after he was killed.

In another, Mr Roberts- Smith was seen partying near a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

Another showed a dead Afghan man with two souvenir coins placed over his eyes. yes.

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 ??  ?? Ben RobertsSmi­th has denied claims against him. Inset picture: SMG/The Age/ 60 Minutes
Ben RobertsSmi­th has denied claims against him. Inset picture: SMG/The Age/ 60 Minutes

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