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Australian whistleblower for Afghan war crimes stands trial

The Australian government is set to put a former military lawyer on trial for leaking classified documents about the perpetration of crimes by Australian occupation troops during the invasion of Afghanistan. 

David McBride is scheduled to appear in the Supreme Court in Canberra on Monday for breaching the Defence Act and unauthorised disclosure of information. He could be facing a “life sentence” if found guilty at the Australian top court.  

McBride is accused of leaking classified defence information to three senior journalists at the ABC and the then Fairfax Media newspapers.

The material later formed the basis of “The Afghan Files,” a 2017 ABC expose revealing allegations of misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, including possible unlawful killings. The disclosures also led to a much-publicised federal police raid on the ABC’s Sydney offices in 2019.

McBride has pleaded not guilty to five charges, including the unauthorised disclosure of information, theft of commonwealth property and breaching the Defence Act.

He has not been the first or only person to reveal information about alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan.

Back in 2020, an Australian military investigation confirmed that Australian forces had murdered dozens of civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

The report, released by Major General Justice Paul Brereton, determined that Australian special forces had murdered 39 civilians and prisoners, including children, in Afghanistan.

The Australian government had previously spent years trying to gag whistle-blowers or dismiss reports of wrongdoings by the country's military personnel. 

Australia, which is not a member of NATO, has had an active role in Afghanistan since the US, along with a number of its allies, invaded the country in 2001.

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