The mother-in-law of terrorist Khaled Sharrouf has made an emotional plea to Prime Minister Tony Abbott to help bring her daughter and grandchildren home to Australia from the Middle East.
Karen Nettleton said her heart was broken and her daughter Tara, Sharrouf’s wife, had made the “mistake of a lifetime”.
Sharrouf and Australian Islamic State terrorist Mohamed Elomar were reportedly killed in a drone strike in Mosul last week.
Sharrouf became internationally notorious last year when he posted photos which appeared to show one of his young sons brandishing a severed head, and Ms Nettleton acknowledged many Australians would not be sympathetic to her daughter’s plight.
“I accept that some will be critical of my daughter, who followed her heart and has paid an enormous price,” she said.
“I implore those people, including our Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, who is a man of faith, to remember John 8:7 – ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’.
“Mr Abbott, I beg you, please help bring my child and grandchildren home.”
Children ‘will be dealt with in normal way’ says PM
On Wednesday morning Mr Abbott said the Government had a “high degree of confidence” Elomar had been killed in Syria but was less sure about the fate of Sharrouf.
“In respect of Elomar, yes, we do have a high degree of confidence that he was effectively dealt with by that coalition airstrike,” Mr Abbott told Channel Seven, referring to a missile strike last week.
“In respect of the other individual (Khaled Sharrouf), we don’t have any such confidence. So, one looks to be dead, the other we can’t say.”
Mr Abbott did not indicate any special efforts would be made to bring Tara Nettleton and her children back to Australia.
“Yes, you can’t convict the kids on the basis of the crimes of the parents but nevertheless, they will be dealt with in exactly the same way as the families of criminals are normally dealt with,” he said.
“These aren’t the first Australians who have committed very serious crimes overseas, who have families. They will be dealt with in the normal way.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the Sharrouf children were victims of child abuse and would need counselling.
“I am particularly concerned about the children here – these children are victims of child abuse,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The issue of whether they should be allowed to return, he said, needed to be worked through “intelligently” and be based on security advice.
Elomar’s death ‘leaves 14yo widowed in a vicious land’
Ms Nettleton said a few days ago she got a knock on the door from a man with an ominous message.
“The messenger told me that the man my granddaughter was forced to marry, Mohamed Elomar, was dead,” she said.
“I was also told that Khaled Sharrouf, my daughter’s husband, was missing and presumed dead.”
In a written statement given to the ABC by her lawyer, Ms Nettleton described her reaction to the news.
“My heart broke for my daughter Tara and my granddaughter Zaynab, alone in a troubled and dangerous country, but I was so relieved by the news that they were alive and unharmed,” she said.
“My daughter made the mistake of a lifetime. Today she is a parent alone in a foreign and vicious land looking after a widowed 14-year-old and four other young children.”
Ms Nettleton said she believed the Australian Government had “the resources and expertise to save its own citizens”.
“With the deaths of Mohamed Elomar and likely Khaled Sharrouf, my daughter and grandchildren more than ever need the love and care of their family to help them recover from the trauma, abuse and terrors of war they have experienced,” she said.
She said that until now she had been reluctant to speak publicly because of the “unbearable” fear of placing her loved ones in further danger.
“They want to come home. Our country is a country of many faiths and backgrounds,” she said.
“It is my belief that Australia is an open-hearted country. The time is ripe for compassion and empathy.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has refused to say whether the Government would help the family members to return to Australia.
“I would encourage anybody in this situation to make contact immediately with the Australian Federal Police to engage in a discussion about what the next step might be,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 program.
“And that’s an issue for the police to investigate these matters.”
Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit said Sharrouf’s children do not deserve to be left in such a dire situation.
He said there is a need for compassion and they should be allowed to return to Australia.
“These children have been manipulated by their parents, by their father,” he said.
“I think that given their young age, that they don’t pose the threat to Australia’s security.
“I think that they are innocent parties to all of this and that if they do come back I would have no doubt that they would be successfully integrated into society and go on with their lives.”