An Australian engineer caught in a dispute between the Iraqi government and his employer in Dubai is sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of $ 12 million (AUD 16.5 million).
- Pether and a colleague were arrested in Baghdad in April
- The Australian man’s lawyers had expressed their concerns over the case to the UN
- Secretary of State Marise Payne said in July that she had raised Mr Peter’s case with her Iraqi counterpart
Robert Pether, 46, has been in an Iraqi prison since April after he and his Egyptian counterpart, Khalid Zaghloul, were arrested in Baghdad while working for the engineering firm CME Consulting.
Sir. Peter’s wife Desree said the verdict was a “rare” breakthrough of justice.
“It’s just absolute hell,” Mrs Pether told ABC from her home in Ireland.
“We honestly believed that justice would prevail after almost five months, and we are so shocked that it did not happen.
“It did not matter what evidence they presented in their defense, which was scarce because they did not have access to their laptops or their hard drives and the prosecutors had no backups at all.
Sir. Peter’s company led the construction of a new $ 1 billion headquarters for the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), which was to dominate Baghdad’s skyline from its position on the banks of the Tigris River and was designed by renowned Iraqi British architect Zaha Hadid. .
The project had been hit with significant delays and cost outbursts, and the bank demanded that money paid to the contractors be returned.
Earlier this week, an Iraqi judge found the couple guilty of deception, despite lawyers arguing that they should not be held personally responsible for their company’s actions.
Mrs Pether said her husband was a “broken man” who had lost 15kg in his first 12 days in jail. He has to get out of his cell just three times a week for just 20 minutes.
“It’s malicious prosecution and they are pawns in a game of chess,” she said.
“[The Iraqi government] wanted someone to do the project for less and therefore they have basically utilized all the powers they have available because they are the government and they have pretty much just got these guys out and brought someone else in. “
Lawyers for Pether had made representations to the UN and expressed serious concern about the couple’s ongoing detention in Iraq.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said it had made representations to the Iraqi government on Mr Peter’s case “including to seek clarity on the nature of the allegations”.
“The foreign minister has written and spoken to his Iraqi counterpart to strongly advocate for Mr Peter’s case, including stressing that a person cannot be held responsible for the company’s conduct,” it said.
“The Australian Government cannot intervene in the legal proceedings of other governments.
“DFAT continues to provide consular assistance to Mr Pether and his family.”
In July, Secretary of State Marise Payne said she had insisted Pether access her legal team and obtained information about the case against him.
“I certainly feel very much for both Mr Pether and his family,” she told Perth 6PR radio station.
“The isolation they feel from each other-I’m pretty sure it’s probably exacerbated by COVID-19 influences as well.
“We will continue the efforts we make and our contact with Mrs Pether and her family will try to support them as best we can.”
Asked what she wanted the Australian government to do, Pether said: “I want heaven and earth moved to get him out.”
“We really need to do something significant so that it does not happen to other Australian engineers or architects who go over there and work.”