Under-siege war hero Ben Roberts-Smith is stood down from Channel Seven as the Victoria Cross recipient battles rival Nine Network over ‘baseless’ claims he is a war criminal
- Ben Roberts-Smith has been temporarily stood down from Channel Seven
- Former SAS corporal is suing Nine for defamation over articles they published
- The articles accused Mr Roberts-Smith of committing war crimes in Afghanistan
Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith has been stood down from Channel Seven as he fights claims he is a war criminal.
The former SAS trooper is suing Seven rival Nine for defamation over a series of newspaper articles and TV reports accusing him of killing civilians in Afghanistan.
Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton on Monday told staff it was a ‘mutual decision’ ahead of the former corporal’s trial.
The high-profile legal battle will start in June and is expected to run for eight weeks – but Mr Warburton doesn’t expect Mr Roberts-Smith to return to work until September.
Ben Roberts-Smith has been temporarily stood down from Channel Seven amid his upcoming legal battle with rival Nine
The Victoria Cross recipient will take leave from his role as general manager of Channel Seven in Queensland while the defamation case is afoot.
Mr Warburton confirmed the leave in an all-staff email on Monday.
He said Mr Roberts-Smith would take leave from Monday ‘to focus on his upcoming legal matters’.
‘Ben and I believe this mutual decision is best for both him and our company,’ Mr Warburton wrote.
‘We expect Ben to return to his role upon the completion of his defamation proceedings.
‘As the trial is currently set down for eight weeks, it’s likely that won’t be until after August.’
The decision to stand him down comes as he launched an extraordinary attack on the county’s top brass for their ‘disgusting’ treatment of veterans.
He also accused military commanders of running Australia’s longest war in Afghanistan from the safety and comfort of Dubai, without ever having a campaign strategy.
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing Nine News for defamation over articles accusing him of committing war crimes in Afghanistan
He scolded the ‘staggering’ lack of direction.
Mr Roberts-Smith thanked the Australian public for helping push for a royal commission into veteran suicides in the face of resistance, warning it would uncover systemic failures and flaws.
‘It’s what we need to do to protect the future of the military and more importantly, the people that are willing to sacrifice everything,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
Mr Roberts-Smith landed in strife a few weeks ago after he was recorded in leaked audio praising boss Kerry Stokes but disparaging other Seven West Media staff.
More to come
Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Mr Ben Roberts-Smith at Buckingham Palace in 2018