SHOCKING pictures have emerged said to show Australia’s most decorated living soldier cheering on pals as they drink from the false leg of a dead Taliban fighter.
Reports from Down Under show SAS trooper Ben Roberts-Smith downing beers with other soldiers while on deployment in Afghanistan during one of his five tours of duty there.
One photograph – reportedly from 2009 – shows him apparently pumping his fist and smiling as another squaddie drinks from the prosthetic leg while he clutches a can of Heineken.
Another image shows the Victoria Cross recipient with his arm around a cowboy-hat wearing man clutching what appears to be the same prosthetic leg, reports News.com.
They emerged after an inquiry revealed war crimes allegations against 19 Aussie soldiers who are accused of killing and maiming civilians in the battle-scarred country.
Reports two years ago also claimed a prosthetic leg brought back as a trophy from Afghanistan was used as a drinking vessel at the SAS's headquarters in Perth.
The latest images – published in the Sydney Morning Herald – contradict comments made in court by Roberts-Smith’s lawyer Bruce McClintock, who said his client “thought it was disgusting to souvenir a body part, albeit an artificial one from someone who had been killed in action”.
Nine newspapers reported the disabled Afghan fighter was killed by Roberts-Smith, who has claimed he was a member of the Taliban who died in battle.
The killing is the subject of a war crimes inquiry but Roberts-Smith,awarded the VC in 2011 for bravery under fire, has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The 42-year-old, who left the Army as a Corporal in 2013, is involved in a long-running defamation case involving the Nine newspapers and TV network.
His conduct is being investigated in the high-profile Brereton Report into alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
The report does not name any soldiers allegedly involved in wrongdoing but the investigation into Roberts-Smith was outlined in a defamation case in the Federal Court.
The former soldier is suing the owners of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald following two reports that included allegations he kicked a bound Afghan villager off a cliff and had him executed.
His barrister told the Federal Court in September that stories contained a number of errors including the wrong date for the alleged war crimes.
The most recent leaked pictures follow a story in The Guardian earlier this month which showed SAS soldiers drinking beer from the prosthetic leg.
A number of photographs were provided to the paper but none showedRoberts-Smith and his lawyer has previously made comments claiming he did not drink from the fake leg.
The Guardian photos were said to show the same leg shortly after it was taken from a Taliban fighter killed in a special forces raid in Uruzgan province in 2009.
One allegedly shows a senior SAS soldier – who is still serving – downing beer from the false limb. Another shows two other servicemen dancing with it.
The pictures were allegedly taken at an unofficial bar known as the Fat Lady’s Arms inside Australia’s special forces base in Tarin Kowt.
The leg travelled with the SASR 2 squadron at all times, one former trooper told The Guardian.
He said: “Wherever the Fat Lady’s Arms was set up, then that’s where the leg was kept and used occasionally for drinking out of.”
Later the leg was mounted on a wooden plaque under the heading Das Boot, alongside an Iron Cross – a medal worn in Nazi Germany.
The soldier claimed this was tolerated by senior commanders, who would occasionally visit the bar.
And some commanders are alleged to have joined in sculling with the leg after it was returned to Perth HQ.
Taking a trophy from a battlefield can constitute a war crime, lawyers said.
The leg is not mentioned in last month's redacted report on alleged war crimes by Justice Paul Brereton.
But it does mention the Fat Lady's Arms, saying it was resupplied with booze despite being unauthorised.
The report said there was “the toleration, acceptance and participation in a widespread disregard for behavioural norms: such as drinking on operations, the Fat Lady’s Arms, and lax standards of dress, personal hygiene and behaviour – and not only on operations – which would not have been tolerated elsewhere in Army”.
Australia's Department of Defence said: “Where there is information provided to Defence not addressed as part of the Afghanistan Inquiry, these matters will be investigated thoroughly and acted on.
“It is critical that all matters are considered carefully, and any actions are undertaken according to the ADF’s longstanding and well-established processes, ensuring the rights of individuals to due process and fair hearing are protected.”
The inquiry recommended 19 soldiers be investigated by federal police over the alleged murder of 39 prisoners and civilians and the alleged cruel treatment of two others.
Troopers are said to have killed farm workers, and slit the throats of two 14-year-old boys suspected of being Taliban sympathisers.
Senior commandos also forced junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives to "blood" them for combat, it is claimed.
Roberts-Smith last month welcomed the appointment of a special investigator to test the claims of wrongdoing in Afghanistan.
In a statement dated November 13, he said: “I welcome the announcement today by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence which has for the first time accurately clarified that it was no part of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force’s (IGADF) remit to make any findings of fact in relation to rumours concerning special forces soldiers.
“It is heartening to hear that these matters, which have been the subject of rumours for years, will now be examined by a Special Investigator’s Office with expertise and experience to consider evidence not rumours and make decisions based on evidence rather than on unsubstantiated rumours.
“It is regrettable that the IGADF Inquiry took such an extraordinarily long time to be finalised.
"While I appreciate the complexity of the task ahead for the Special Investigator, I am hopeful that this next phase will be completed as expeditiously as possible so that all the current and former special forces soldiers who have been deeply impacted by the Inquiry process can move on with their lives.”
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