A former Afghan soldier convicted of the murder of off-duty Australian soldiers is being transferred to a prison in Qatar.
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The federal government has confirmed that a rogue Afghan soldier known as Hekmatullah, who was convicted of the murder of three off-duty Australian soldiers in 2012, is being transferred to a detention facility in Qatar by the government of Afghanistan.
Hekmatullah will be held in detention with five other highly sensitive prisoners, all of which have been convicted of killing Coalition soldiers or civilian humanitarian workers in a series of insider attacks.
The government of Qatar has assured the government of Afghanistan and to the US that the prisoners will be confined and isolated.
In a joint statement, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, stressed that Australia has “steadfastly maintained that Hekmatullah must not be released”.
“We have communicated our position repeatedly and consistently and at the highest level to the government of Afghanistan, which is solely responsible for his custody, and to the United States,” the statement read.
The Australian government has worked with its international counterparts to ensure that Hekmatullah remains in prison following a deal struck in February 2020 between the US and the Taliban.
As part of the deal, the parties agreed to release Afghan government and Taliban prisoners as “goodwill pre-conditions” that obliged the Taliban to enter into intra-Afghan negotiations with the government of Afghanistan.
“That agreement has already seen the release of some 5,000 Taliban-associated prisoners and detainees,” the ministers continued.
“Australia is not the only country that objects to the release of this most dangerous group of prisoners. Other countries, including France, have joined calls for dangerous criminals not to be released.
“Australia is not a party to the intra-Afghan negotiations, nor the US-Taliban discussions. We are not standing in the way of peace talks.
The ministers added that they “fully support” an Afghan-owned and led peace process, and “all genuine steps taken towards a just, durable, and resilient peace arrangement”.
“We recognise that there is no military solution to violence in Afghanistan. A negotiated political peace settlement is the only way to find a genuine conclusion to conflict, external militant interference, and terrorism,” the ministers stated.
“Australia appreciates that the Afghan government, in making the decision to move the prisoners to Qatar, is doing its best to recognise and respect the concerns of the countries that want to see justice served.”
According to the statement from the ministers, the transfer of the six sensitive prisoners from Afghanistan to a detention facility in Qatar was decided by the government of Afghanistan and the US as a “means of facilitating the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations”, scheduled to begin on 12 September.
The Australian government has insisted that Hekmatullah should serve a full custodial sentence for the crimes and should not be released as part of a prisoner amnesty.
“Australia has communicated this position clearly to the Afghan government and has not provided any authorisation for Hekmatullah’s release as part of any arrangement with the Afghan government,” the ministers stated.
“We will continue to advocate our position robustly, wherever he is being held. Justice and peace are not incompatible. Both have a place in peace arrangements.
“A just outcome for the prisoner Hekmatullah remains a sensitive issue. The Australian government once more extends its condolences to the families, loved ones and friends of our three fallen Australian soldiers.”