Eyewitnesses to the alleged murder of Afghan villager Ali Jan at the hands of Australia's most decorated soldier are due to give evidence in the Federal Court.
Ben Roberts-Smith, who denies any wrongdoing, is suing three newspapers over their reporting of the alleged murder in Afghanistan in September 2012 and other accounts his lawyers say paint him as a war criminal.
The newspapers have pleaded truth defences.
Despite Sydney's coronavirus lockdown, the Federal Court will resume hearings in person this week to take evidence from four Afghans who claim to have seen or heard Ali Jan being killed.
A man claiming to be Ali Jan's nephew says he, his uncle and another man were detained by Australian special forces soldiers before Mr Roberts-Smith kicked the handcuffed Ali Jan off a small cliff in their village, Darwan.
Another Darwan resident says he saw a big soldier kick Ali Jan off a cliff before hearing gunshots, according to outlines of evidence provided to the Federal Court.
Mr Roberts-Smith has told the court the suggestion he and another soldier dragged Ali Jan across a creek bed into a cornfield, where the villager was shot, was “completely false”.
The Victoria Cross winner has also denied the newspapers' claims that he kicked the Afghan off the cliff shortly after being laughed at twice by the man, whom the newspapers' barrister asserted was interrogated and assaulted.
“No that didn't happen,” Mr Roberts-Smith said from the witness box in June.
He also rejected barrister Nicholas Owens' assertion that after the Afghan was killed, his handcuffs were removed, a radio was placed on him and then the SAS soldiers discussed how to cover up the incident.
“That's false,” Mr Roberts-Smith said.
The in-person hearings are occurring during lockdown due to increased violence in Afghanistan and concern the evidence will become “unavailable” should the Taliban continue to take over regional areas of the country.
The Afghan witnesses are to testify via audio-visual link from Kabul. Because of difficulty finding a qualified English/Pashto interpreter in Australia to attend court, one will provide translations remotely from Ontario, Canada.
When and how the trial will hear from Australian witnesses called by the newspapers is to be discussed by the court on Wednesday.