Amnesty International joins Detained in Dubai in effort to free Australian Jo Sarlak, held in Qatar
Amnesty joins fight for Australian’s freedom
Elderly Australian citizen Joseph Sarlak should have been home a long time ago. Instead, after being released from a virtual life sentence in Qatar after being scapegoated by local business partner, he remains behind bars in an overcrowded, filthy immigration jail in Doha. Sarlak suffers from a number of serious health conditions, and has already endured 3 years without proper medical care in prison.
Detained in Dubai has actively worked to resolve Joseph’s issues, and sought intervention from the Australian government. With the criminal case now behind him, Sarlak remains in detention because he does not possess a valid visa for Qatar anymore, thus the authorities will neither release nor deport him.
“It is absolutely inexcusable that Joe continues to be held on the grounds of having an expired visa, when he was needlessly jailed by the authorities for 3 years during which time his visa expired,” commented Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai. “The Australian government has been woefully lax in supporting Joe, despite considerable public outrage over his treatment by Qatar. We have recently been joined by Amnesty International in our campaign for Joe’s release, and we welcome their support. Together, we are ramping up our efforts to help get him home at long last.”
Sarlak was initially sentenced in 2016 to 7 years for each of several bounced company cheques, essentially amounting to a life sentence for the nearly 70 year old man. It emerged that Joe was the victim of an unscrupulous local partner who had allegedly pillaged the corporate accounts, thus causing the shortage in funds to cover the cheques. Sarlak was made the scapegoat for serious financial mismanagement, and wrongfully prosecuted and jailed.
After efforts led by Detained in Dubai, Sarlak has been freed from the criminal cases, “We were immensely relieved to learn that Joe would be released, but almost immediately disappointed when Qatar authorities refused to actually free him on the most absurd rationale. Every day Joe has been in prison has been a violation of his rights, and every day he remains in prison poses a threat to his health,” Stirling said. “Clearly, the Australian government could resolve this problem with very little effort, and it is well past time for them to step in and stand up for their citizen.”
Amnesty International released a press statement today:
“AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA
AUGUST 5 2019
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO HELP RETURN SERIOUSLY ILL AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN JOSEPH SARLAK FROM DETENTION IN QATAR
Amnesty International Australia today called on Foreign Minister Marise Payne to make representations to the Qatari government to return seriously ill citizen Joseph Sarlak from detention.
Mr Sarlak suffers from several serious health conditions and has been detained in Doha since 2016 over a business deal gone bad.
“Mr Sarlak has been languishing in jail because he does not have a visa to leave the country - something the Australian government could very easily remedy,” Amnesty International Australia campaigner Tim O’Connor said.
“His family has grave concerns about his health as he suffers from heart disease, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and arthritis, and they want him returned home as soon as possible.”
Mr Sarlak was initially detained due to allegations of bad cheques being passed in contravention of local laws relating to foreign business. However, his lawyer Radha Stirling says this issue has now been resolved and his continued detention is “purely administrative”.
“For three years, Australian citizen Joseph Sarlak has been needlessly detained in Qatar, with almost no help from the Australian government,” Stirling said.
“Now, the farcical criminal case is resolved, but Joe is still not free, and the government is still failing to secure his freedom. He is being kept in a miserable immigration holding cell in Doha, with a lingering travel ban that prevents him from going home, and an expired visa that prevents him from being released in Qatar.
“He is elderly, unwell, and has already suffered for years. We are calling upon the Australian government to intervene. Joe’s health is deteriorating, and the conditions in which he is being held are unbearable. Enough is enough; Qatar needs to finally let Joe go home."