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Saudis flog Australian citizen: Australian government weak.

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Saudis Flog Australian Citizen: Australian Government Weak 5 March 2003

Michael Danby, the Federal Member for Melbourne Ports, has condemned the Federal Government for failing to act in the case of a Caulfield man, (from Melbourne Ports), Mr Robert Thomas, who has been subjected to 200 strokes of a cane in a Saudi Arabian prison, and is due for another 100. “To add insult to injury, literally, Mr Thomas was Australia’s honorary Consul in Bisha, in southern Saudi Arabia” Mr Danby said.

Mr Thomas was arrested in June last year, and sentenced to 300 strokes in September for a theft allegedly committed by his wife. Many of the details of Thomas’s case have just surfaced in a letter received by his friend, Hillary Ash, also of Melbourne.

“Mr Howard should also condemn the flogging of Mr Thomas’ wife which occurred in public, as cruel and inhumane treatment.

“The Government has had nine months to intervene in this case. It is appalling that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister have not personally intervened in this case with Saudi Arabian Government Officials. Last night Crown Prince Abdullah was happy to give Australians gratuitous advice but has not heard any public squeak, let alone condemnation until today, from the quiescent Australian government.

“I do not accept the Prime Minister’s explanation on the ABC this morning, informing us that he was only made aware of this case today.

“The Prime Minister should reprimand the Foreign Affairs Minister and his own staff for allowing this situation to get out of control. There are no excuses for allowing an Australian citizen to be caned 200 times in a foreign country without top level Government intervention. What have our consular officials in Saudi Arabia been doing over the last 9 months?

“It is abhorrent that the Federal Government does not consider the gross infringement of human rights of one of their citizens important enough to investigate until now. How is it possible that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would not draw this to the immediate attention of both Mr Downer and Mr Howard?

“There is a complete failure in Australia’s consular system, if a case as serious as this was not brought to the Minister’s attention. I will ask a question in Parliament tomorrow about the break down in the system, and I expect a speedy response from the Minister.” Mr Danby said.

MICHAEL DANBY MHR Press Release from the Federal Member for Melbourne Ports