Ghahraman accuser Phil Quin denies he was part of the Rwandan Government PR machine

Former Labour Party staffer Phil Quin - the man who accused Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman of "genocide denial" and then withdrew the claim - has refuted claims that he ran a PR campaign for Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

And he has expressed regret for the public furore that resulted from his Twitter outburst against Ms Ghahraman.

Over the past two weeks, New Zealand's first refugee MP has had to answer a series of attacks against her credibility, including her exact role with the United Nations war crimes tribunals in Rwanda.   

Ms Ghahraman was forced to change her Green Party website profile, which alluded to "putting on trial world leaders for abusing their power", without mentioning that she had actually worked on the defence staff for several accused of those crimes.

Mr Quin, who worked for the Rwandan government as a communications consultant at that time, was one of her strongest accusers, tweeting that she was a "straightforward genocide denier" and hinting she would not be in Parliament very long.

This week, he has faced attacks on his own integrity, through an anonymous Reddit post that suggests he waged a public relations campaign on behalf of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whom some civil rights groups had suspected of war crimes that were never brought to trial.

In an exclusive interview with Newshub, Mr Quin insists he never intended to publicly attack Ms Ghahraman and wasn't part of an orchestrated smear campaign against her.

"Somebody has obviously spent an hour on Google, I guess," he says, about the Reddit post. "It's an extremely shallow hatchet job, which is fine - people were annoyed with me and wanted to get some payback.

"It's completely untrue. From 2012-15, I worked in Rwanda on a project funded by the EU on capacity-building in the public sector. It had nothing to do with any of the stuff in that article.

"I worked for a tiny corner of a very small part of a very large government - they wouldn't listen to me and I wouldn't be arrogant enough to give them that kind of advice.

golriz tweet
Golriz Ghahramana and Phil Quin's "genocide denier" tweet, now deleted. Photo credit: Getty/Twitter

"The notion that a foreigner would speak on behalf of Rwanda in terms of PR and spin… there's no way Rwandans would have some whitey speaking on their behalf, after the way the western world treated them during the genocide."

The Reddit post hints that Mr Quin was part of a PR campaign that sought to deflect various war-crime accusations against Mr Kagame, including his possible involvement in the assassination of previous President Juvénal Hayarimana.

In 2008, Ms Ghahraman co-authored a paper entitled 'Can Rwandan President Kagame be held responsibl at the ICTR for the killing of President Habyaimana?', the event that sparked the Rwandan genocide.

The report concluded that, while the shooting down of Mr Habyarimana's plane may have been a war crime, "the law on the matter is sufficiently unclear and therefore a prosecution of President Kagame would not be prudent".

Mr Quin insists: "None of those accusations of war crimes ever went to court, let alone were proven."

Among its accusations, the Reddit post refers to Mr Quin's work with the Rwandan Police, an organisation that was implicated by a 2013 US Department of State report in arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture. His recollection is that he spent half a day teaching police officers how to use social media.

Other accounts seem to confirm Mr Quin's use of the "genocide denier" line to discredit other negative coverage of the Rwandan government.

Over the weekend, he apologised for using that term against Ms Ghahraman and attempted to retract it by deleting his earlier tweet.

"It was pointed out correctly that I did use the term genocide denier in a flurry of excitement upon discovering a paper that hypothesized troubling theories about the genesis of the genocide. I should not have used that term w/o further evident & I apologise to @golrizghahraman."

Today, he posted a YouTube video entitled 'A quick word of apology', expressing his regret and disappointment at how the saga had unfolded.

"I do feel bad that people whom I admire and respect have diverged with me on this issue and expressed disappointment to me," he said. "How could one not?

"I am concerned when people I respect take a different view.

"People may still disagree with me - I hope they do so in good faith - but please understand that my views come from a deeply sincere place."