Australia's most decorated war veteran pictured with controversial Crusader's Cross in Afghanistan

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Australia's most decorated war veteran pictured with controversial Crusader's Cross in Afghanistan

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Former Australian special forces soldier and accused war criminal Ben Roberts-Smith wore a Crusader’s Cross on his uniform while on duty in Afghanistan, with the symbol later digitally removed by defence officials in a widely distributed photo of the veteran.

Mr Roberts-Smith is currently suing three Australian newspapers for stories they published detailing alleged war crimes and other accusations against him.
The photo of the Victoria Cross recipient was released by Australia’s Department of Defence in early 2011 showing Mr Roberts-Smith wearing a blank patch on the front of his uniform after exiting a helicopter.

The symbol was worn by soldiers in the Medieval religious wars known as the Crusades, during which nominally Christian forces invaded predominantly Muslim countries.

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The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age has obtained the original photo, which was taken on April 6, 2010, revealing Mr Roberts-Smith was in fact bearing the Crusader’s Cross.Neil James, the Australia Defence Association's executive director told The Age that displaying the symbol was “wrong morally” and “counterproductive”.

A spokesperson for the defence department said it “does not condone or permit the use, display or adoption of symbols, emblems and iconography that are at odds with Defence values”.

Australian economist and writer, John Quiggin, said the picture explains why western forces “lost in Afghanistan”.

“This picture sums it up. Crusaders were mass-murdering religious extremists, the ISIS of their day. Muslims haven't forgotten, and Defence can't airbrush their memories out of existence,” he said.

Mr Roberts-Smith has been accused of murdering civilians and unarmed prisoners, including an Afghan boy aged in his mid-to-late teens.

He is also alleged to have killed an Afghan man at close range in 2009. The man had a prosthetic leg, which some Australian soldiers then used as a vessel for drinking beer.