CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Police on Monday charged the first Australian veteran for an alleged murder in Afghanistan three years after a war crime investigation found that 19 Australian special forces soldiers could face charges for illegal conduct during the conflict.
A 41-year-old man was arrested in New South Wales state and charged by police with the war crime of murder, an Australian Federal Police statement said.
“It will be alleged he murdered an Afghan man while deployed to Afghanistan,” the statement said.
He is expected to appear before a Sydney court within days, when a magistrate will likely consider whether he can be released from custody on bail.
The man was identified by Australian Broadcasting Corp. and News Corp as former Special Air Service Regiment trooper Oliver Schulz.
ABC broadcast helmet camera video in 2020 of a soldier it said was Schulz shooting an Afghan man in 2012 in a wheat field in Uruzgan province.
He faces a potential sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Police are working with the Office of the Special Investigator, an Australian investigation agency established in 2021, to build cases against elite SAS and Commando Regiments troops who served in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.
A military report released in 2020 after a four-year investigation found evidence that Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians. The report recommended 19 current and former soldiers face criminal investigation.
Benjamin Roberts-Smith, Australia’s most highly decorated member of the armed services when he left the SAS in 2013, has been accused by former colleagues of unlawful treatment of prisoners, including illegal killings. The former corporal, who was awarded the Victoria Cross and the Medal for Gallantry for his service in Afghanistan, has denied any misconduct.
His year-long defamation trial against The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times newspapers ended in July 2022 but a judgment has yet to be announced.
More than 39,000 Australian military personnel served in Afghanistan during the 20 years until the 2021 withdrawal, and 41 have been killed there.