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Operation Slipper-SOTG

ADF soldier allegedly made threats to judge’s family

Exclusive: A Special Forces soldier is under investigation for allegedly threatening the family of the judge running the inquiry into allegations Australian Special Forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

The soldier, who remains a serving member of the Australian Defence Force, is being investigated for allegedly threatening a Commonwealth official.

It is alleged he posted a threatening message on a social media account relating to immediate family members of NSW Court of Appeal judge Justice Paul Brereton.

Justice Brereton is heading up an investigation known as the "Afghanistan inquiry'' being run by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, James Gaynor.

Mr Gaynor used his annual report tabled in parliament in February to reveal investigators were examining claims Australian Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan were involved in the unlawful killings of non-combatants.

Mr Gaynor revealed investigators were looking into 55 "incidents or issues'' alleged to have involved Special Forces personnel operating in Afghanistan, including war crimes and "cruel treatment'' of non-combatants.

 

An Australian Special Forces soldier walks ahead of his Afghan National Security Force and Australian Special Operations Task Group comrades.
An Australian Special Forces soldier walks ahead of his Afghan National Security Force and Australian Special Operations Task Group comrades.

 

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith is among those caught up in the inquiry. He has denied any wrongdoing and sued Nine media for defamation over their coverage of the inquiry. It was revealed this week he had been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police, which is also investigating several alleged incidents in Afghanistan.

News Corp can reveal investigators raided the home of the soldier who is alleged to have made the threats. It's thought a number of his electronic devices were seized and the man's social media accounts examined by investigators.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds would not comment but the Department of Defence issued a short statement from a spokeswoman, saying: "Defence is aware of a NSW police investigation. It is inappropriate for Defence to comment further.''

NSW Police then told News Corp that military police were investigating the case, not them.

Military police operate as an arm within the Australian Defence Force, and can lay disciplinary charges against ADF members.

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Senate Estimates into the department of Defence at Parliament House in Canberra. Secretary of Defence Greg Moriarty, Minister for Defence Senator Linda Reynolds and CDF General Angus Campbell appeared at estimates. Picture Gary Ramage
Senate Estimates into the department of Defence at Parliament House in Canberra. Secretary of Defence Greg Moriarty, Minister for Defence Senator Linda Reynolds and CDF General Angus Campbell appeared at estimates. Picture Gary Ramage

 

In his annual report tabled in federal parliament Mr Gaynor said the four-year inquiry was in the final stages of collecting evidence.

It was launched in 2016 to investigate rumours concerning the behaviour of some members of the Special Forces who had been alleged to have breached the Law of Armed Conflict.

The Morrison Government is bracing for the release of the report later this year, with several senior MPs privately believing it will contain adverse findings.

Last week an SAS soldier was suspended by the Australian Defence Force after the ABC aired shocking footage showing him shooting an apparently unarmed Afghan man at close range.

 

Screengrab from a video which shows an Australian SAS soldier shooting and killing an unarmed man at close range in Afghanistan. Source: FourCorners
Screengrab from a video which shows an Australian SAS soldier shooting and killing an unarmed man at close range in Afghanistan. Source: FourCorners

 

Senator Reynolds said she had made a formal referral to the Australian Federal Police about the soldier's actions, which she described as "alleged serious criminal conduct.''

The fatal shooting of the man as he appeared to cower in a field, apparently clutching prayer beads, was recorded on a body camera worn by another soldier, and took place in Oruzgan province in May 2012.

 

Originally published as ADF soldier allegedly made threats to judge's family


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