Australian PM confirms secret Rwandan guerilla deal

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Australian PM confirms secret Rwandan guerilla deal

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison | Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

POLITICO’s revelations have sparked condemnation from across the political spectrum.

SYDNEY — The Australian prime minister confirmed his country resettled two Rwandans accused of murdering tourists two decades ago in a secret deal revealed by POLITICO Thursday.

“They’re in Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the “7.30” TV news program on Australian broadcaster ABC Thursday evening, just two days before the country’s general election on Saturday. He added: “They were cleared of those particular matters, in terms of Australia’s assessment of those particular matters.”

POLITICO reported that in a deal struck in 2016 by Australia and the U.S. under former national leaders Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Obama, Washington publicly agreed to take in up to 1,250 refugees, predominantly from Iran, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, who were being held in Australian-run offshore island camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The deal was done after Australia agreed to resettle Central American refugees from camps in Costa Rica.

But in a secret arrangement, Australia also agreed to take in at least two of three Rwandans who were brought to the U.S. to face trial — and potentially the federal death penalty — on charges of involvement in the brutal murder of eight tourists, including two Americans and two New Zealanders, who were on a gorilla-watching visit to the Ugandan rainforest in 1999.

The three Rwandans, who were members of Hutu rebel group Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR), confessed to the murders, but the American case fell apart after a judge ruled the men were tortured in their home country.

On Thursday, Morrison said in a statement to broadcaster ABC: “I can confirm that the two individuals were subjected to strict security and character checks by our security agencies. That included checks relating to national security, criminality, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“That resulted in an assessment that they did not represent a risk to security and they were cleared.”

The revelations sparked condemnation from across the political spectrum.

The opposition Labor Party’s Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said he wants the government to “thoroughly” explain the deal and promised his party would demand an urgent briefing if it’s elected Saturday, according to the ABC.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale also condemned the deal on the ABC’s Radio National “Drive” program, citing his party’s opposition to offshore processing under any circumstances.

“If we had done what was our moral and legal obligation and that was to treat people with some decency, to process them here, to close the inhumane, unjust brutal regime that is offshore detention, then we wouldn’t be facing this right now,” Di Natale said.

Pauline Hanson, leader of Australia’s far-right, anti-immigration One Nation party, posted a video statement on Twitter demanding answers.

“I’m really angry with what I’ve just heard: that Australia took two detainees from America, Rwandans, who were involved in the murder of eight tourists in Rwanda,” Hanson said.

“We weren’t told about this, how much other information have we not been told about? This is important, we as Australians know the type of people we are allowing into this country,” she added.

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