'Refugee' is back ruling Afghan district

By Patrick Gower

An Afghan military commander who lived in New Zealand after fleeing the Taleban is now back ruling a district in his homeland.

The man, who the Weekend Herald cannot identify for legal reasons, led a mujahadeen battalion in the 10-year war to end the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

He then governed a major city district until the Taleban seized control of the country in 1998.

He fled to New Zealand and claimed refugee status, fearing he would be persecuted because of his later involvement with Western organisations rebuilding the country.

Although he was recognised as a refugee under the Refugee Convention, the claim was declined because of fears he had committed undisclosed "crimes against humanity" during the war and he was deported after a failed appeal in 2001.

The Taleban was defeated as part of the US-led "War on Terror" and the Weekend Herald has learned the man was then able to take up a senior government role again.

The man's story was revealed in documents obtained from the Refugee Status Appeals authority relating to his brother, who is in New Zealand.

They tell how the man's family fled to Pakistan after the Russian invasion in late 1979. He and his older brothers joined a mujahadeen group. By 1987, he was a commander leading 250 men in battles. After the Russians were overthrown in 1989, the man was the administrator of a city district.

By 1996, the Taleban had taken that province and he escaped first to Kabul and then out to Uzbekistan, believing that they were looking for him.

From there, he came to New Zealand and claimed refugee status.

It is understood that the man's "crimes against humanity" were related to the group he was in that was said to have shot soldiers and unarmed civilians, and also to have run a prison.

A Refugee Status Appeals authority relating to his brother's successful attempt to stay in New Zealand was released this month.

It said the Immigration Service had last year confirmed the man's story about why he had fled Afghanistan as part of checks into whether his brother could stay.

It also referred to many witnesses who have been back to Afghanistan attesting that the man is now an administrator of another city district.

The authority ruled that a 2004 decision to deport the man's brother from New Zealand because his account might have been untruthful was overturned, partly due to the evidence found by the verification unit since the order.

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