Australian professor and son abducted and allegedly tortured in Qatar

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Advocacy group CAGE have said that an Australian professor and his son who’ve been missing for four months are being held arbitrarily by the Qatari authorities and have allegedly been tortured.

Through testimonies obtained from family members and former prisoners, CAGE said it was able to confirm the whereabouts of Professor Lukman Thalib and his son Ismail Talib.

Lukman Thalib, 58, is part of the Scientific Reference and Research Task Force established as part of the response to COVID-19 in Qatar, and his son Ismail Talib, 24, is a cyber security expert working for Al Jazeera.

According to CAGE, they were violently abducted in a night time raid in Doha by masked men in plain clothes on July 27.

On October 19, Ahmed Talib, also a son of Professor Luqman, was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as an alleged “financial facilitator” of al-Qaida. “Talib has had financial dealings in a number of countries, and his business dealing in gemstones has provided him the ability to move funds internationally for the benefit of AQ,” the State Department said.

Ahmed Talib’s home in Australia was raided in a joint operation between Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police, but no arrest or charges have been brought forth.

Simultaneously, the Sri Lankan authorities, where the family are originally from, called in their extended family members for interrogation.

The family strongly believe the arrests in Qatar, the interrogations in Sri Lanka and the raid in Australia are all connected and are a form of collective punishment on the family.

Family members that spoke to CAGE, have claimed that the two men were subjected to torture including:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sustained loud noises throughout the night
  • Being kept in a dark room with extremely cold temperatures
  • Being held in stress positions for extended periods of time
  • Being forced to consume various compounds and chemicals that make it impossible to fall asleep despite their extreme fatigue
Ismail Talib

Maryam Talib, daughter of Professor Thalib, said: “The last few months have been the slowest and most painful days of our life. We just need my father and brother back home where they belong. We have been deprived of their love and warmth.

“My father is an innocent man. He has spent the last 30 years dedicated to improving the lives of others. He has been involved in over 400 research projects and his work has been cited over 6500 times in research publications. My younger brother, Ismail, is ambitious, passionate about his work and principled by nature. He is always thinking about the best way to give back to society.

“As Australians we always hold high and champion the values of justice and truth. Unfortunately, during this ongoing ordeal, we have not received the support we needed from our government. We appeal to our fellow citizens to assist us in calling upon our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to take the necessary steps to secure my father and brother’s safe and immediate release.”

Naila Ahmed, Head of Casework at CAGE, said: “Professor Thalib and his son Ismail have had their life overturned in a matter of weeks. They have not only suffered torture, been held in arbitrary detention, but they have also been stripped of their employment without any process. They are likely being prepared for deportation from Qatar. We are deeply concerned for their welfare and call upon the Australian authorities to take immediate action to return them home.

“The motives behind the torture and secret detention of professor Thalib and his son Ismail remain unclear. However, this action by the Qatar authorities, believed to be in complicity with the U.S., bear the hallmarks of the early years of the War on Terror during which, governments across the world would abduct and disappear innocent men at the behest of the CIA.”

The Australian government has provided consular assistance to the pair, and is understood to have visited them in recent months. The government has told their family it is still attempting to clarify the nature of the investigation and the charges being considered against them.

The U.S. and Qatari authorities have not commented on the matter.

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