Daughter of Robert Pether, jailed and feared tortured in Iraq, asks Scott Morrison to intervene in his case

The young daughter of an Australian man feared to have been tortured in an Iraqi jail has made an impassioned plea to the Prime Minister to help bring her father home.

Robert Pether, 46, has been locked up in a Baghdad prison since April last year, and an investigation by the United Nations raised concerns he had been “shown torture rooms, blindfolded, insulted and screamed at” while languishing behind bars.

Mr Pether, an engineer, was arrested alongside his Egyptian colleague Khalid Zaghloul while working on the development of the new $1 billion central bank of Iraq headquarters. 

Mr Pether’s nine-year-old daughter, Nala, took to social media early on Wednesday to call for more help from the Australian government.

“He’s been imprisoned in Iraq for over a year,” she said clutching a toy rabbit.

“Please, Mr Morrison, can you help him?

“I really, really miss him.”

Her mother Desree Pether said Nala had been inspired to film the video after seeing the daughter of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe make similar pleas for help.

Ms Zagahari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran Airport in April 2016, and spent nearly six years in jail before her release in March.

Last week, Foreign Minister Marise Payne dismissed suggestions from Mr Pether’s family that he had been forgotten and abandoned. 

“I think it’s difficult to understand the challenges that a family like the Pethers face in circumstances like this where their husband and father has been in prison as a result of a court process in another country,” Senator Payne said.

“I respectfully don’t agree that we have forgotten Mr Pether.”

Robert Pether and family
Robert Pether has been behind bars in Baghdad since April last year.

In August last year, an Iraqi court found Mr Pether and Mr Zaghloul guilty of deception charges — carrying a $16 million fine and five years in prison.

Ms Pether said the pair had since been hit with further charges, as the Central Bank of Iraq tried to enforce further fines for delays in the construction of the new headquarters on the banks of the Tigris River.

She told the ABC her husband was forced to sign yet another document last Thursday, written in Arabic, demanding payment of the original fine within a week – something the family said is impossible, given the huge amount.

Mr Pether and Mr Zaghloul are set to face court again in a number of weeks.

The ABC has contacted the Foreign Minister’s office for an update on Mr Pether’s circumstances.

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