An Australian soldier accused of killing an Afghan man has been released on bail
SYDNEY — A former elite soldier charged with murder in the killing of an unarmed man in Afghanistan was released on bail Tuesday by a judge who concluded he faces threats from Muslim extremists in prison.
Oliver Schulz, 41, has been in custody since his arrest last week in rural New South Wales on war crimes charges of murder.
His lawyer, Phillip Boulten, applied for bail at Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court on Monday, arguing that the former Special Air Service Regiment soldier was at serious risk to his personal safety from Muslim extremists in the prison system and needed to be separated from other inmates.
“Wherever this man is going to be held in prison, he will probably have to mix with people in prison who sympathize with the Taliban or other Islamists.
extremist groups,” Boulten said.
Judge Jennifer Atkinson granted the request, agreeing that they posed too great a risk to him behind bars.
“It can be inferred that there may be people who were considered to be of the opposite view to the accused.
his conduct both as a member of the (Australian Defense Force) and on the day the incident allegedly occurred,” Atkinson told the court.
Schulz was held in a maximum-security prison in Goulburn, 200 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of Sydney. Some of New South Wales’ worst convicted terrorists are being held in Goulburn.
Helmet camera footage filmed in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province in 2012, broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in 2020, will be part of the case.
The video allegedly shows Schulz shooting the local man, Father Mohammad, three times as he lay on his back in a wheat field with his hands and knees raised. His father later reported to the Australian Defense Force that his son had been shot in the head.
Atkinson said the murder charge would put Schulz in “a very difficult, if not dangerous, environment” and that correctional staff would not be available to supervise him 24 hours a day.
“My view is that the situation of the accused may be worse than that of other persons who are in pre-trial detention, given the particular security risks to his person,” he said.
National security concerns surrounding the case also would make it difficult for Schulz to advise his lawyers and access classified materials under strict conditions if he were put behind bars, Atkinson said.
The court withheld the names of the cities and regions where Schulz lives to protect his family from threats.
After footage of the shooting in Afghanistan was broadcast nationally, then-Defence Minister Linda Reynolds referred the allegations to the Australian Federal Police.
Schulz was suspended from duty in 2020 and subsequently discharged from the Australian Defense Force due to health reasons.
Schulz, who was awarded a Commendation for Gallantry for his service in Afghanistan, is the first former or serving Australian Defense Force member to be charged with war crimes under national law for murder.
If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
He is among 19 current and former Australian special forces soldiers who a war crimes investigation has found may face charges for illegal conduct in Afghanistan.
A military report released in 2020 after a four-year investigation found evidence that Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.
More than 39,000 Australian troops have served in Afghanistan by the time they withdraw in 2021, and 41 have lost their lives there.
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