This morning the Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax rags published another disgraceful chapter in Fairfax's catalogue of efforts to bring down our most decorated war hero, Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG.
Fairfax provides this statement from the AFP as confirmation of its story:
In a statement to Fairfax Media sent on Wednesday evening, an AFP spokesperson said: "The Australian Federal Police (AFP) received a referral to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by Australian soldiers during the Afghanistan conflict."
Note the plural - soldiers?
That's it so far as anything like official confirmation is concerned.
However that didn't stop the headline
Police investigate Ben Roberts-Smith over alleged war crimes
Note the AFP statement doesn't mention the name(s) of any suspect(s).
It simply confirms there's been a referral.
But Fairfax knows better:
The Australian Federal Police has launched a major investigation into Australia’s most decorated former soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, over allegations he committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Fairfax says it's "....one of the most secretive investigations in the nation", and it's "the most serious inquiry ever conducted by the police into alleged war crimes".
Yet in the next sentence, Fairfax acknowledges, "The AFP.....declined to provide any details of its probe".
Fairfax then rehashes old stories about defence enquiries into the Afghanistan allegations - before we get to the guts of this shoddy effort produced in the dying days of the Fairfax brand.
Mr Roberts-Smith has claimed a series of articles published this year in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times are defamatory because they portray him as a war criminal and also allege he punched a woman with whom he had an affair. Mr Roberts-Smith denies all the allegations.
Fairfax does not concede that it made all the claims that are alleged by Mr Roberts-Smith. If the court decides otherwise, however, Fairfax says it can prove the claims are true.
In support of its truth defence, Fairfax alleges Mr Roberts-Smith was involved in six unlawful killings in Afghanistan, including an alleged incident in 2012 in which he is said to have kicked Ali Jan, an unarmed and handcuffed Afghan man, off a cliff before directing a soldier under his command to shoot him.
Mr Roberts-Smith has said the defence filed by Fairfax was "baseless" and "purports to imply" that a list of 17 people, whose names have been redacted in the document, "will be witnesses in support of the Fairfax claims against me".
Mr Roberts-Smith said he was "confident that witnesses who will be called in this case will say that Fairfax Media’s allegations are untrue".
Last week, Mr Roberts-Smith issued a fresh statement denying all wrongdoing after the woman who alleges he punched her in the face in March outlined her claims in a sworn affidavit lodged in the Federal Court defamation proceeding launched by the ex-soldier.
The woman told the ACT police about the alleged assault in May, but later told officers she did not want to proceed with a criminal complaint, leading them to cease their inquiry. In the woman’s affidavit, she alleges she withdrew her complaint because she didn’t want her and her family’s identity exposed via any potential prosecution.
ACT Police has said that it ceased its investigation due to “insufficient evidence to support any prosecution.”
A disgraceful effort.
Lest We Forget.