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Keep Australian soldiers’ killer in jail, Trump urged

Keep Australian soldiers’ killer in jail, Trump urged

Aug 10, 2020 - 14:19

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged US President Donald Trump not to free the killer of three Aussie in Afghanistaninfo-icon, according to a media report.

Morrison urged Trump to ensure that an Afghan solder who murdered three Australians was not part of a US-backed prisoner swap between the Talibaninfo-icon and the Afghan government.

The killer, known as Hekmatullah would be freed soon and this has angered the families of the victims, who believe he should have been executed after Afghanistan’s Supreme Court sentenced him to death.

Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate were shot dead as they played cards at a patrol base in Uruzgan province in August 2012.

Hekmatullah fled the scene but was captured in Pakistaninfo-icon six months later after an extensive manhunt.

The Trump administration has pressed the Afghan government to release the remaining 400 Taliban members, who had been convicted of serious crimes such as murder. Kabul finally agreed on the weekend.

Morrison said Australia wanted to see Hekmatullah stay in jail and that he had written to Trump about the issue, which was also raised at the recent AUSMIN talks between Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds with their US counterparts Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper.

"This has been a matter of very regular and persistent petitioning on our behalf," Morrison said. "Hekmatullah was responsible for murdering three Australians, and our position is that he should never be released.

"We do not believe that his release adds to peace in this region. And that is the position that we will continue to maintain and we’ll maintain it strongly.

"I can't promise you the outcome, we all want here, but it's certainly the outcome that we will continue to press for as hard as we can."

President Ashraf Ghani had been reluctant to release the high-value offenders such as Hekmatullah but faced pressure from the US, which is withdrawing troops.

The Taliban made the release of the prisoners a pre-condition for beginning ceasefire talks.

Forty-one Australians died while serving in Afghanistan. About 240 Australian personnel remain deployed to the country.

sa/mud

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