Kill claim completely false: Roberts-Smith

Sam McKeithAAP
Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith will continue to be cross examined on Friday.
Camera IconVictoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith will continue to be cross examined on Friday. Credit: AAP

Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith has told his defamation trial that a claim he was involved in killing a handcuffed prisoner in Afghanistan in 2012 is "completely false".

Mr Roberts-Smith, 42, is suing three newspapers in the Federal Court over reports from 2018 critical of his military deployments in Afghanistan where he did six tours from 2006 to 2012.

Australia's most decorated soldier alleges the articles defamed him by depicting him as a war criminal who broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement.

He denies all the claims against him while the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times are relying on the defence of truth.

On Friday, the former SAS corporal denied assertions from the respondents' barrister, Nicholas Owens SC, that he or another soldier codenamed Person 11, shot a detained Afghan in a cornfield on a SAS mission in Darwan, in Uruzgan province, on September 11, 2012.

Mr Owens suggested that after the handcuffed Afghan was kicked off a cliff, Mr Roberts-Smith and Person 11 dragged the man across a creek bed into the cornfield, where he was shot.

"That is completely false," Mr Roberts-Smith told the court.

The war hero also denied Mr Owens' claims that he kicked the Afghan off the cliff shortly after being laughed at twice by the man, whom the barrister asserted was interrogated and assaulted.

"No that didn't happen," Mr Roberts-Smith said.

He also rejected the barrister's assertion that after the alleged killing, the Afghan's handcuffs were removed, a radio was placed on him, and then a discussion took place between the SAS soldiers about how to cover up the incident.

"That's false," Mr Roberts-Smith said.

He denied that a photo shown to him indicated that the slain Afghan had been wearing "flexi-cuffs" at the time he was shot.

"No he wasn't," the witness said.

The SAS veteran told the court that he'd explained the engagement "exactly how it happened".

He said the compounds that were cleared at the time were empty and rejected assertions that men were interrogated for "more than an hour" before the alleged killing.

"There were no men there," he said.

Mr Roberts-Smith has previously given evidence that on the mission he and Person 11 came up an embankment into a cornfield where an Afghan "spotter" was shot and killed.

The trial has previously heard that, on Mr Roberts-Smith's version of events, a radio was later found near the body of the killed insurgent.

It has also previously heard evidence that insurgents hiding in cornfields "regularly" attacked SAS missions in Afghanistan by hitting mission extraction points.

On Friday, Mr Roberts-Smith was also quizzed about a 2009 SAS operation in Uruzgan where he says he killed an enemy insurgent with a prosthetic leg armed with a bolt-action rifle.

Mr Roberts-Smith told the court he was incorrect in his evidence on Thursday that during the mission another killed insurgent was dragged back to the compound by a different SAS operator.

"My recollection is not that he dragged a body back," he told the court.

"It was a mistake yesterday in my evidence."

He denied Mr Owens' assertions that the previous evidence was in fact a lie, calling the barrister's version of events at Whiskey 108 a "fanciful story".

"It's a ridiculous story ... that's why it doesn't work," Mr Roberts-Smith said.

Earlier, Mr Roberts-Smith rejected that there was anything odd about two insurgents appearing at the "exact moment" he walked outside the compound.

"No, not in that battle," Mr Roberts-Smith said.

"Were those two insurgents just unlucky?" Mr Owens asked.

"I don't understand your question sorry," the former soldier replied.

Mr Roberts-Smith's legal team argues that the man with the fake leg was not a "defenceless" Afghan, but was in fact an armed fighting age male insurgent.

Other witness expected to appear at the trial include ex-SAS soldiers, Afghan villagers as well as federal MP Andrew Hastie and former Liberal politician Brendan Nelson.

The trial continues on Monday before Justice Anthony Besanko.

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