The professor and his son were released by authorities in Qatar after a five month imprisonment.
An Australian academic who was put on a terror watch list by Canberra and prevented from returning home said he felt “betrayed and abandoned” by the nation he had called home.
Professor Lukman Thalib said he spent five months in prison in Qatar with his son Ismail where he alleges he was subjected to torture, according to reports.
However, Thalib and his son were freed by Qatari authorities in 2020 before heading over to Turkey due to Covid-19 border controls in Australia at the time.
A year later, Thalib said he was preparing to travel back to Australia when he was denied permission to do so.
“When I was preparing to go home, I received a strange email from someone listed as ‘TEO-Applications’. I initially presumed it was spam but when I saw the Australian government’s logo, I google-searched what a TEO was because I had never heard of that before,” said Thalib.
“I felt shocked, perplexed and outraged,” he said.
“I could not stop feeling the double betrayal: one for allowing me to be severely tortured and then preventing me from seeking justice and healthcare,” he added.
The home minister of Australia has the authority to issue a temporary exclusion order, or TEO, against any citizen if the state has reasons to believe that the individual will take part in a terrorist attack or support a terrorist group.
Authorities can also extend the order if they continue to believe there is a real threat after the initial two years have passed.
Any Australian citizen put on a TEO needs authorisation from the home minister, who will then grant them a return permit in order to travel back to Australia.
“Upon my release, I was clearly told that I was assured by Australian consular officials that I was not charged with anything whatsoever. But I found out much later that despite this assurance, the minister of home affairs in Australia had issued a TEO against me,” he said.
The professor helped establish the medical school at Qatar University while working in the department of public health at the institute. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he also provided advice to Qatar’s Scientific Research and Reference Taskforce.
However, on 27 July 2020, Thalib and his 24-year-old son Ismail, were suddenly arrested from their home in Doha by security forces, according to CAGE, which campaigns against unlawful imprisonments in terrorism related cases.
Qatar did not charge Thalib or his son, who trace their family roots to Sri Lanka, with any crime. However it is believed their detention has come at the request of US intelligence officials acting on information provided by Sri Lankan authorities.
The detention of the Australian nationals came three months before the US Treasury Department issued a statement alleging that Thalib’s other son, who lives in Melbourne – Ahmed Luqman Thalib – had been providing “financial or material support” to Al-Qaeda through his gemstone company which is based in the Australian capital.
However, authorities in Qatar freed Lukman and his son Ismail on 24 December 2020 after holding them both for five months.
Since then, Thalib’s family has received aid in their quest for justice from the UK-based advocacy group CAGE.
“The sudden and agonising event of being criminalised, tortured and held in solitary for five months in a secret black site has turned my life upside down,” Thalib told the Middle East Eye.
“And not long after my release, I suffered a massive heart attack and continue to this day to suffer from lasting damage to my health.”
Doha News has reached out to Qatar’s Government Communications Office but has not received a response at the time of publication.