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