LONDON: The Australian acting head of Qatar University’s public health department, who played a role in helping the country combat COVID-19, has been held for five months by authorities without charge.
The news emerged that Prof. Lukman Thalib, 58, and his 24-year-old son Ismail were arrested on July 27 and are being held at an unknown location after the US State Department named another of Thalib’s sons, Ahmed — a gem trader — as an Al-Qaeda affiliate in October.
Thalib’s family said they did not hear from him for 40 days after his arrest. Ismail has still not made contact with his family.
Despite efforts by Australian authorities, they are yet to ascertain the reason for their captivity. The pair are being given consular support by the Australian Embassy in Qatar.
Thalib’s daughter Maryam told British newspaper The Guardian that the family “has gone through what can almost be described as hell.”
She added: “It has been painful and devastating. My mum is older, both my parents are elderly … It’s been a very, very tough time. It’s just been quite devastating for us just being kept in the dark on so many things.”
She said her father is losing a dangerous amount of weight and is being subjected to sleep deprivation.
Thalib, an award-winning public health expert, has lived in Qatar since 2015 and is in remission for leukaemia.
His son Ahmed was accused in mid-October by the US of being a financier for Al-Qaeda. The announcement led to a raid on his home by Australian intelligence, local and federal police. Ahmed has yet to be charged with any offense.
UK-based organization Cage, which claims to “empower communities impacted by the War on Terror” and is assisting the family, said in a statement: “The family strongly believe the arrests in Qatar … and the raid in Australia are all connected and are a form of collective punishment on the family.”