Tribunal told prisoner record was falsified
Major David Pratt after the hearing. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
A senior military policeman tried to cover up the apparent beating of an Afghan man arrested by coalition soldiers by falsifying entries in a log book, a military court heard on Tuesday.
A court martial in Canberra was told that Major David Sperry Pratt, a military policeman posted to Afghanistan in 2010, told a subordinate ''less is best'' after he intervened during a questioning of the prisoner about his injuries.
Prosecutors said Major Pratt made false entries about the prisoner ''with the intention to deceive'' after the man had been brought in with facial injuries and blood on his face and beard.
In a separate incident, he falsified detention records for another prisoner to make it appear that the man had been held for less than 96 hours, as per Australian Defence Force rules in Afghanistan.
Major Pratt faces five charges relating to the incidents in late 2010: one of suppressing a service document; two of removing a service document - one of which is an alternative to the first charge - and three of making false entries in log books. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Warren Nazzari told the court that a subordinate, Corporal Aaron Sweet, would testify that Major Pratt intervened while the corporal was questioning the prisoner in the medical facility at the Initial Screening Area where Afghan detainees were brought.
According to Corporal Sweet, who kept notes of the episode in a diary on his laptop computer, Major Pratt asked the prisoner: ''Are you satisfied with the treatment by ISA since you got here?''
And the prisoner answered, ''Yes. Not the other soldiers.''
But in an official ''prisoner under capture'' log book, which records everything about prisoners' detention, Major Pratt recorded his question as: ''Are you satisfied with your treatment by (International Security Assistance Force) forces?''
And he recorded the answer as, ''You have been good to me. I am happy.''
After the incident, Major Pratt told the corporal: ''Less is best,'' the court heard.
Appearing as a witness, Corporal Sweet - a reservist military policeman - said of the prisoner: ''He came in with a severe black eye … and a cut to the bridge of his nose.
''He also had injuries to his mouth and dry blood around his nostrils, beard and moustache.''
The court was closed to the public repeatedly on the grounds that evidence included sensitive information that could harm Australia's security.
In a separate incident, the prosecution alleges Major Pratt falsified the ''prisoner under capture'' book of another detainee to make it appear he had been held for 95.5 hours.
Under ADF rules, prisoners at the ISA must be either released or transferred within 96 hours. But separate records showed the prisoner was held for 100.5 hours, Major Nazzari said.
Major Pratt was commanding officer of the First Detention Management team, which was posted to Tarin Kowt, the base from which most Australian troops operate, in late 2010. The team had recently undergone training in Western Australia. Before its arrival in Oruzgan, the initial detention of Afghan prisoners had been handled by the Dutch army, which withdrew from Afghanistan in the second half of 2010.
The trial continues.