The wife of an Australian man arrested in Iraq has pleaded with the foreign minister, Marise Payne, to intervene and help her husband, who she says is being kept in jail as “leverage” to help the country’s central bank.
Mechanical engineer Robert Pether, 46, remains behind bars in Baghdad without the means to contact his family after being arrested without warning three weeks ago.
Pether was involved in the construction of the Central Bank of Iraq’s new headquarters, but the project became mired in a contractual dispute. He flew to Baghdad from Dubai at the invitation of the bank to resolve the problem, only to be arrested when he and a colleague turned up for the meeting.
His wife, Desree Pether, said that prior to travelling to Baghdad her husband had asked the Australian embassy in Iraq whether he would be safe. He was assured he would be, according to her.
Speaking to the Guardian from Ireland, Desree Pether urged the Australian foreign minister to intervene in the case.
“This is one of the top engineers from Australia and he went over in good faith after dutifully checking with the embassy and specifically explaining the situation that there was a dispute between his employer and the Central Bank of Iraq,“ 她说.
“My appeal is if [Payne] could use everything at her disposal to get him out, because it’s just going round in circles, and he is literally being used as unwitting leverage in a dispute.”
The foreign affairs department previously confirmed it is seeking “urgent consular access” to an Australian detained in Iraq and “remains in contact with his family and lawyer”. It also said its general advice was not to travel to Iraq due to the risk of violence, kidnapping, armed conflict and the volatile security situation.
Payne’s office was approached for a response late on Friday. Desree Pether also approached the minister’s office directly on Friday afternoon.
She said she had seen little evidence of the department’s consular assistance. The only way she has been able to speak with her husband is via a phone provided to his Egyptian colleague by the Egyptian embassy.
Robert Pether flew to Baghdad on 1 April and attended the meeting with the central bank on 7 四月. He and his colleague were arrested immediately.
The couple have three children: a daughter, aged eight, and two sons, 老龄化 15 和 17. Desree Pether said her husband feels betrayed by the Iraqi and Australian governments.
“He’s literally just bewildered. He feels betrayed because of how much effort he’s put in, 18 hour days for four years, time away from his family, devoted to this project,“ 她说.