Australia charges a former soldier with murder over the killing of an Afghan

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Police have charged Australia’s first veteran with murder for his killing in Afghanistan after a three-year war crimes investigation concluded that 19 Australian Special Forces soldiers could face charges of unlawful conduct.

Former Special Air Service Regiment officer Oliver Schultz, 41, has been arrested in New South Wales state and charged with murder by police, a statement from the Australian Federal Police said.

“It is assumed that he killed an Afghan man while he was deployed to Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Schulz was charged late Monday in Queanbeyan Court, where his lawyer did not request bail. Schulz was placed on remand to appear in a Sydney court on 16 May.

In 2020 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast helmet camera video of a soldier it said Schultz shot and killed an Afghan man in 2012 in a wheat field in Uruzgan province.

Schulz, who was awarded the Gallantry Medal for his service in Afghanistan, faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

Police are working with the Office of the Special Investigator, an Australian investigative agency established in 2021, to build cases against an elite special forces and commando regiment who served in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

A military report released in 2020 after a four-year investigation found evidence that Australian forces had unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.. The report recommended that 19 current and former soldiers face a criminal investigation.

Benjamin Roberts Smith, the highest-ranking member of the Australian Armed Forces when he left the SAS in 2013, was accused by former colleagues of unlawful treatment of prisoners, including unlawful killings. The former corporal, who was awarded the Victoria Cross and the Gallantry Medal for his service in Afghanistan, has denied any misconduct.

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His defamation trial against The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times newspapers concluded in July 2022, but the verdict has yet to be announced.

More than 39,000 Australian military personnel have served in Afghanistan in the 20 years to the 2021 withdrawal, and 41 have been killed there.

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