- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 28, 2007

Deanne Haubner is facing an unforeseen turn of events in which the three Rwandan rebels charged with torturing and killing her brother and his wife during the couple’s African safari vacation in 1999 now are seeking safe haven in the United States.

“If someone were to say that the terrorists responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers could be arrested and never face justice because their confessions were supposedly coerced, nobody would stand for it,” Miss Haubner said. “This is no different. These guys were terrorists before terrorism became fashionable.”

Since 2003, the three Rwandans accused of killing Oregon residents Robert Haubner and his wife, Susan Miller, in a Uganda national park in 1999 have been locked up in the D.C. Jail awaiting their federal death-penalty trial.

The attack on the couple and six other tourists aimed to erode U.S. support for the Rwandan government, officials said. Some of the victims were hacked to death with axes and machetes.

Nearly four years after announcing the arrests, federal prosecutors earlier this month sought to drop felony murder and kidnapping charges against Francois Karake, Leonidas Bimenyimana and Gregoire Nyaminani.

Authorities said they cannot prosecute the men after a judge ruled the confessions inadmissible. U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled last year that the men were tortured by captors in Rwanda and coerced into admitting to the killings.

Miss Haubner said the family was surprised that the defendants recently sought asylum in the United States.

“My understanding was that if charges were dismissed, then they would be sent out of the country,” she said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, declined to comment, saying government officials are not permitted to discuss specifics on pending asylum cases.

However, spokesman Chris Bentley explained there is generally no deadline for deciding such matters.

“We try to make a decision as quickly as we can,” he said. “The important thing is studying all of the evidence and applying it to the law.”

When authorities first announced the arrests in March 2003, Michael Chertoff, who was assistant U.S. attorney general at the time, said the case served as a warning that “those who commit acts against Americans will be hunted, captured and brought to justice.”

Now Mr. Chertoff, as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is in charge of the agency being asked to grant the defendants political asylum.

Defense attorneys are seeking to delay dismissal of the charges because they want Homeland Security officials to give formal notice that the political asylum applications will be reviewed.

Without such notice, the defendants could be deported to Rwanda, where they fear persecution, the defense attorneys argue.

Mr. Karake testified during the suppression hearing that Rwandan captors handcuffed him from the wrists to the ankles and repeatedly beat him with bricks and a wooden stick.

His co-defendants offered similar testimony, most of which Judge Huvelle found was bolstered by specialist and medical testimony, including physical examinations of the men.

Miss Haubner fears the rebels could be released from the D.C. Jail into society once the charges are dropped. Although not commenting on the specifics of the case, Mr. Bentley said the odds are “highly against” that happening.

“By and large, if an individual does not have status in the United States … they will remain detained until such time the case is decided,” he said.

But Miss Haubner is wary of such assurances. She said federal prosecutors once told the family that although there was a possibility the confession statements could be suppressed, “the chances weren’t very good.”

“None of us ever imagined that charges would be dismissed,” she added.

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