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War-crimes whistleblower trial date set

Ex-military lawyer David McBride detailed allegations of possible unlawful killings by Australian forces in Afghanistan

A trial date has been set in the case of the Australian former military lawyer David McBride who is accused of leaking information of alleged misconduct, including unlawful killings of civilians, by members of the country’s special forces in Afghanistan.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum in a Thursday hearing at the Supreme Court of Australian Capital Territory (ACT) ordered that McBride must stand trial this year, with a court date set for November 6. This means some four years and eight months will have passed since McBride was first formally charged in the case.

The 60-year-old is accused of leaking classified military intelligence to three journalists at the Australian broadcaster ABC. The information revealed potential gross misconduct by members of the country’s special forces serving in Afghanistan, including the possible unlawful killings of at least 39 prisoners and civilians.

He has pleaded not guilty to five charges related to the unauthorized disclosure of information and violations of the country’s Defense Act. The prosecutorial pursuit has led to claims that McBride is being unfairly treated by Australian authorities.

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FILE PHOTO. Defendant David McBride talks to the media before his court appearance in Canberra, Australia.
War crimes whistleblower to face prosecution

“Rather than prosecuting whistleblowers, the Australian government should get on with fixing whistleblowing law and ensuring accountability for Australia’s wrongdoing in Afghanistan,” said human rights lawyer Kieran Pender via the Canberra Times on Thursday. He added that Attorney General Mark Dreyfus should dismiss the charges.

The sensitive military information allegedly distributed by McBride was used by ABC in the 2017 television documentary ‘The Afghan Files.’ ABC’s offices in Sydney were subsequently raided by Australia’s federal police in 2019.

The military leaks also formed the basis of the Brereton Report, which delivered its findings on November 6, 2020 – with a redacted version released to the public almost two weeks later. It detailed a variety of malconduct within the ranks of Australian military services in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, including placing evidence of weapon-use on civilians killed in combat.

The inquiry also found that junior soldiers were encouraged to murder prisoners in order to get their first kill on the battlefield in a process known as “blooding.” 

McBride was not in court on Thursday for the announcement of the November 6 proceedings against him. The trial is expected to last for six weeks. A previous move to protect him from prosecution due to his actions being in the public interest was abandoned.

April 14, 2023 at 08:32PM
RT

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