Australian professor and son released from secret jail in Qatar

An Australian professor and his son have been freed from a Qatari jail where they were held without charge for five months and allegedly tortured.

Professor Lukman Thalib, 58, was acting head of Qatar University’s public health department when he was arrested on July 27. His son Ismail Talib, who worked for Al Jazeera, was also arrested at the same time.

Three months after the arrests the United States alleged that Ahmed Luqman Talib, another of Professor Thalib’s sons, had “provided financial or material support” to Al Qaida.

Advocacy group CAGE said the father and son had arrived in Turkey where they were receiving urgent medical attention, and that when their condition stabilises they will be making the journey back home to Australia.

However, CAGE said a series of pressing questions have emerged around the complicity of Australia in their detention.

They say Australian authorities knew of the arrest of the two men as early as the July 28 (one day after their arrest), and Australian security services used this information to question Muslims in Australia about the Thalibs.

CAGE added that Australian embassy officials visited the Thalibs while they were held in secret detention as early as November, when Professor Lukman detailed his torture to an official – but neither was the secret location nor the torture communicated to the family.

An embassy official subsequently told the family they did not see any visible effects of torture and did not have any concerns.

CAGE said that the following torture methods were used on the men:

  • Being held in stress positions for prolonged periods
  • Facing threats against family members
  • Undergoing sleep deprivation and sensory bombardment
  • Being kept in solitary confinement
  • Being gassed with noxious gasses to dull their senses

Maryam Talib, the daughter of professor Thalib said: “As a family we were overwhelmed with joy when we heard my father and brother were being released. We really couldn’t believe it. Currently their recovery and health are our only priorities, so we will be taking all the means to this end during their stay with me in Turkey.

“We have still not received any formal allegations or justification for what has happened. Sadly, there are many unanswered questions we have as a family pertaining to the negligence and unjustifiable complacency of the Australian government and embassy in Qatar.

“We have very strong reasons to believe our government was aware of their detention from the very early days after they were kidnapped, however they preferred to do very little, even as it unfolded over the next five months that two of their citizens were being tortured.”

Naila Ahmed, head of casework at CAGE, added: “We are overjoyed at the release of Professor Lukman Thalib and his son Ismail Talib from their arbitrary and torturous detention in Qatar.

“It is crucial that Australia give a full explanation regarding their level of complicity in all of this, and why their support was lacking to the Thalib family, a clear violation of their duty to protect their citizens from torture.”

The Australians and Qataris are close allies of the United States but none of the three countries have not commented on the matter.

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