YouTube stream for the Roberts-Smith trial | Mandurah Courier

Parts of Ben Roberts-Smith’s libel trial will be streamed on YouTube as the Federal Court balances COVID-19 restrictions and national security concerns.

After a six-month hiatus caused by a lockdown in New South Wales and a tough border in Western Australia, the trial resumed in Sydney on Wednesday.

But only those involved in the case, including the former special forces soldier and war hero himself, were allowed into the courtroom due to coronavirus rules.

While some media representatives were allowed to watch a live web feed, the risk of ‘inadvertent disclosure’ of national security information by witnesses made live streaming to the general public ‘unrealistic’, judge said Anthony Besanko.

Instead, Commonwealth lawyers will receive a video recording of the court hearing each afternoon and will be tasked with removing all mentions of sensitive material.

Each day’s recording will be uploaded to the court’s YouTube channel within 24 hours.

Mr Roberts-Smith, one of Australia’s few recipients of the Victoria Cross since 1970, is suing The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times for reporting alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

He says articles from 2018 incorrectly portray him as a criminal who broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement during his deployments to Afghanistan with the SAS.

The former SAS corporal is also suing for assaulting a woman in Canberra.

The newspapers, which organize a defense of the truth, called their first Australian-based witness on Wednesday – an active member of the SAS, known as Person 41.

He took part in a mission in April 2009 to a Taliban compound nicknamed Whiskey 108, located in Uruzgan province.

Person 41 described standing in a compound courtyard with Mr Roberts-Smith and four other soldiers, stepping over the rubble of a wall destroyed by a coalition forces bomb.

“I looked around, didn’t look like I was there too much… (then) another person noticed a hidden tunnel entrance,” he said, shortly time before the proceedings go into a closed hearing.

The newspapers are proposing to call 12 or 13 other witnesses to testify in Sydney.

They were planning to call nine or ten other witnesses based in Western Australia, but when and where that will be remains an ongoing issue.

Current WA border rules mean the second group of witnesses would be forced into a fortnight’s quarantine upon returning from NSW.

Moving the trial to Perth is not a quick or easy solution. The large amount of national security information used in the trial means moving the trial between states would take two to three months, the Commonwealth has previously said.

Australian Associated Press

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