Asutralia defence force

Former army lawyer David McBride, accused of sharing classified military documents with the media, was sentenced to five years and eight months in jail on Tuesday.

McBride was charged with stealing and sharing classified military documents that exposed war crimes committed by Australia's army forces in Afghanistan with the journalists of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The sentence includes a non-parole period of 27 months. His lawyer said the defense will appeal the verdict on the basis that McBride was acting in the interest of the public, The Guardian reported.

During the trial, the 60-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts, including stealing the classified files and leaking them to the public broadcaster. ABC then used the material in the investigative series, "The Afghan Files," which exposed war crimes committed by Australia's elite forces during the Afghan war. McBride, reportedly, collected a total of 235 documents over a period of 2014 and 2015, of which 207 were classified files.

He reportedly copied the sensitive documents and smuggled them home in a backpack. The files were stored in plastic bins in his cupboard for a long time before they were shared with journalists, ABC reported.

McBride told the court that he was concerned about the attitudes of commanders and what he thought was the "over-investigation" of troops, and so he felt it's his moral duty to speak up. "I did not break my oath to the people of Australia and the soldiers that keep us safe," he said on Tuesday.

Delivering the verdict, ACT Supreme Court Justice David Mossop rejected McBride's argument that he did not believe he was breaking the law, and found the offences were aggravated by his high security rating giving him access to the secret military files. He said, "McBride seemed to have become obsessed with the correctness of his own opinions."

According to a BBC report, the commonwealth argued that the information leaked had the potential to jeopardize the security and defense of the country. However, an inquiry, known as the Brereton report, into war crimes later found evidence that Australian forces had illegally killed 39 unarmed Afghans, including civilians and prisoners, from 2007 to 2013.

"The Afghan Files" had revealed how soldiers were reportedly covering up the illegal killings of men and children who were not carrying arms. This also included a six-year-old boy, who was allegedly shot in his sleep in 2013. Till then, very little information was available about the alleged war crimes.

Senior lawyer for the Human Rights Center, Kieran Pender, criticized the ruling, saying, "The imprisonment of a whistleblower will have a grave chilling effect on potential truth-tellers. Our democracy suffers when people can't speak up about potential wrongdoing," The Guardian reported.