The traitorous Afghan soldier who gunned down three Australian army personnel he whose side he was meant to be on in 2012 will soon walk free as part of a prisoner swap deal.
Afghan National Army sergeant Hekmatullah has been locked up for seven years after murdering Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate.
The unprovoked attack happened when the trio were playing cards with the then 19-year-old at Patrol Base Wahab, in the Baluchi Valley region of Oruzgan Province.
Afghan National Army sergeant Hekmatullah (pictured) is set to walk free from prison after seven years
The Australian soldiers were playing cards at Patrol Base Wahab (seen in this ABC re-enactment) when they came under attack by Afghan National Army soldier Sergeant Hekmatullah
The rogue soldier opened fire on the Australian soldiers with his M-16 rifle and successfully escaped the base for Pakistan (re-enactment)
Families of the victims were advised by the Department of Defence on Friday that the turncoat was likely to be among 5,000 prisoners who will soon be released as part of peace negotiations between the Afghan Government and the Taliban.
Originally Hekmatullah was among one of 400 ‘extreme cases’ who were being considered by Afghanistan’s Tribal Council, the Loya Jirga, for ongoing imprisonment after the peace deal.
But after a meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said: ‘Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken out about the US-brokered prisoner swap.
‘It is a matter that I have written to the President about it. It is a matter of keen interest to Australia and we have reminded them of that,’ Mr Morrison said.
Pictured: Private Robert Hugh Frederick Poate who was gunned down by Afghan National Army sergeant Hekmatullah
Pictured: Sapper James Thomas Martin who was gunned down by Afghan National Army sergeant Hekmatullah
Pictured: Lance Corporal Stjepan ‘Rick’ Milosevic who was gunned down by Afghan National Army sergeant Hekmatullah
‘Hekmatullah was responsible for murdering three Australians, and our position is that he should never be released.
‘We do not believe that his relief adds to peace in this region, and that is the position that we will continue to maintain and we will maintain it strongly.
‘I can’t promise you the outcome we all want. But it is certainly the outcome that we will continue to press for as hard as we can.’
Troops from both countries were present at Patrol Base Wahab at the time of the incident.
A 24-strong Australian team had been tasked with mentoring Afghan National Army soldiers at the facility.
The temperature was stifling – over 40 degrees Celsius – on August 29, the day the Australian soldiers were attacked
Australian troops at Patrol Base Wahab were tasked with mentoring Afghan National Army soldiers
During the card game, the rogue soldier became ‘crazy’ after he saw a TV news report about U.S. soldiers burning the Koran.
He then opened fire with an M16, killing the three soldiers and wounding two others.
‘There were some real nasty thoughts that I had in my head,’ he was quoted by News Corp at the time.
‘I saw that video and went crazy’.
Hekmatullah was initially sentenced to death by an Afghan court in December 2012.
The family of the lost Australian diggers released a joint statement condemning the killer’s likely release.
Long Range Patrol Vehicles carry the bodies of the men who were killed in the tragic attack
Afghan and Australian soldier pay tribute to the fallen diggers at a memorial ceremony
‘The news passed to us from senior Defence officers on Friday evening has come as a crushing blow. There can never be complete closure for us now,’ the statement said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted last week the deal in the name of peace was likely to be ‘unpopular’.
‘This difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan’s friends: reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war,’ he said.
‘After 40 years of war and bloodshed and destruction, the parties are ready to embark on a political process to reach a negotiated settlement.’
Parents of fallen soldier Robert Poate arrive at the Brisbane Magistrates Court for the inquest into the death of their son on October 15, 2014
Suzanne Thomas, mother of soldier James Martin, is pictured attending the inquest on October 14
Kelly Walton, the wife of fallen soldier Stjepan ‘Rick’ Milosevic, also attended the inquest into her husband’s death