Former Australian soldier fears Taliban revenge in prison

Taliban soldiers in Kabul in April 2022, nearly six months after the fall of the capital city to the group.

The lawyer for a former Australian soldier who has been charged with a war crime committed in Afghanistan has requested the man be granted bail as he is “extremely vulnerable to Islamic extremists” in prison. 

ABC news reported that according to the former soldier’s lawyer, the accused has been moved from Goulburn maximum security prison to another facility.

The former SAS soldier, who under Australian law cannot be named, was arrested last Monday and has spent the last week in prison. 

He has been charged with the unlawful killing of an Afghan man in a wheat field while deployed as a member of the Australian Defence Force.

The man sought bail on Monday in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court, where his lawyer Phillip Boulten argued he faced serious risks to his personal safety and had to be segregated from other inmates.

“Wherever this man is going to be held in prison, he is likely to have to mix with people in prison who sympathize with the Taliban or with other Islamic extremist groups,” Boulten said.

The 41-year-old ex-soldier is the first current or former Australian soldier to be charged with the war crime of murder under Australian law. 

The ABC reported that it understands the charges relate to the shooting death of Dad Mohammed in May 2012, in central Uruzgan province.

Boulten meanwhile told the court that the man “is extremely vulnerable where he is at the moment.” 

He said his client was initially taken to Goulburn Prison and placed in the facility’s “medical clinic” after being arrested last week. 

“Goulburn is one of the most secure jails in Australia … a supermax prison that typically holds people charged with terrorism offenses and the like,” he said. 

Boulten said his client is now in a segregation cell at another prison and was told he was placed there because staff “didn’t want anyone taking a shot at him”. 

Boulten also said his client needed to be released on bail as gathering evidence would be difficult in prison as some information could pertain to national security. 

A decision concerning the defendant’s bail status is expected to be handed down on Tuesday morning. If found guilty, the 41-year-old ex-soldier could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.