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A Defence whistleblower charged with leaking confidential material to journalists about potential war crimes by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan wants his court summons displayed in the Australian War Memorial.
Former army lawyer David McBride, who is facing trial this year, wants evidence of his own treatment by the justice system displayed, after the War Memorial erected signs acknowledging a landmark judgment dismissing disgraced former soldier Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation case against media outlets.
Defence whistleblower David McBride is facing trial later this year over leaked material.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
“The War Memorial is about telling the truth,” McBride told a press conference in Parliament House on Tuesday, adding that the Anzac legend initially inspired him to speak out.
“I believe I did my job. My job was to stand up when I saw things [that were] wrong.”
McBride will be tried in the ACT Supreme Court on five charges relating to the disclosure of classified documents between 2013 and 2017. The federal government is facing calls to intervene in the prosecution, with ACT Veterans Minister Emma Davidson telling The Guardian the case was not in the public interest.
Comment has been sought from the War Memorial, which has installed plaques next to two displays honouring Roberts-Smith that say the museum is considering what further content should be added to the exhibits in light of the defamation decision. Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko found the newspapers had proven to the civil standard – on the balance of probabilities – that Roberts-Smith was a war criminal who was complicit in the murder of four unarmed prisoners in Afghanistan.
“The memorial acknowledges the gravity of the decision in the Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG defamation case and its broader impact on all involved in the Australian community. This is the outcome of a civil legal case, and one step in a longer process,” the plaques read.
Roberts-Smith is seeking to overturn the findings as part of an appeal launched this month.
McBride said an exhibit highlighting his prosecution would be seen by school children and overseas visitors who visited the War Memorial.
“A lot of people go through there. I imagine it would be thought-provoking to say, ‘Here was someone who didn’t agree with what was going on, someone that stood up’,” he said.
Comment has been sought from Robert-Smith’s defamation lawyer on McBride’s proposal.
Greens senator David Shoebridge has written to War Memorial director Matt Anderson in support of McBride’s bid.
“For telling the truth, David McBride has been singled out and punished by the Australian government,” Shoebridge said in the letter sent on Tuesday.
“The charges, taken together, carry the prospect of decades in jail for the crime of telling the truth.”
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