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Family of Australian professor detained in Qatar say they fear for his life

Professor Lukman Thalib told relatives that his blood pressure and heart rate had become dangerously low
Professor Lukman Thalib (right) received a teaching award at Qatar University in 2018. He is a public health expert and helped Qatar with its covid-19 response (Supplied)

The family of an Australian professor held without charge for five months in Qatar say they fear for his life after his alleged ill-treatment in detention.

Professor Lukman Thalib and his son Ismail Talib, both Australian citizens, have been detained in Doha since July. 

Their arrests came three months before the US accused one of Thalib's sons, Ahmed Luqman Talib, who lives in Australia, of being an alleged "financial facilitator" of Al-Qaeda. 

'They are slowly killing my father. He is an innocent man. This is the last straw for us as a family'

- Maryam Talib, detainee's daughter

Earlier this week, the professor's daughter, Maryam Talib, told SBS News that her father and brother were arrested in a "kidnapping style" without any explanation. 

On Wednesday, the 58-year-old professor, a public health expert who has worked on Qatar's response to Covid-19, told his family that a nurse had said his heart rate is slower than before and his blood pressure was extremely low. 

Maryam fears that her father could die in Qatari detention unless Australia intervenes and brings him home. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed to the Guardian that it was providing assistance to two Australians. 

"This morning on a call at 9:30 am Qatar time, my father expressed concern that his heart is slowing," Maryam said in a statement. 

"He told me that the nurse on a call at the detention facility unintentionally confirmed that my father is at the beginning stages of heart failure. 

"They are slowly killing my father. He is an innocent man. This is the last straw for us as a family." 

A second man held alongside the professor during a separate phone call told Thalib's wife that her husband had been subjected to deliberate and intense "kerosene vapour" for days.

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The vapours, the man told her, had caused "acute nausea" and made some inmates pass out. Middle East Eye could not confirm whether Thalib and his son were subjected to kerosene vapours. 

Cage, a London-based rights group, is helping the Thalib family. It believes his arrest in Qatar and interrogation is linked to the US accusing Thalib's son of helping finance Al-Qaeda. 

"As more evidence emerges of the suspected torture that Dr Thalib and his son have endured, questions must be asked of the Australian authorities and their failure to intervene before it reached this point,” said Naila Ahmed, a caseworker for Cage.  

“According to other prisoners, the men were subjected to a nausea-inducing gas, a torture method used in Guantanamo Bay to induce compliance. They are in need of urgent medical attention.”

Qatar's government had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.