Former Iran hostage calls for release of Robert Pether from prison in Iraq

Academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was detained for years in Iran on accusations of spying, says Iraqi government should release fellow Australian

Robert Pether, 49, has been detained in Baghdad since April 7, 2021. Photograph: Desree Pether
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Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert has called for the release of the Australian engineer Robert Pether and his Egyptian colleague Khaled Zaghloul on the third anniversary of the pair's detention by the authorities in Iraq.

Mr Pether and Mr Zaghloul, who both lived in Dubai, were detained in April 2021 and fined $12 million following a contract dispute between his employer and the Iraqi authorities.

The sentence followed a dispute between their employer, CME Consulting, and the Central Bank of Iraq.

Mr Pether and Mr Zaghloul had travelled to Baghdad for a meeting about the construction of a new building to house the Central Bank of Iraq.

Ms Moore-Gilbert, who has been calling for the pair's release for years and who spent 805 days in an Iranian jail on accusations of spying, said that, in this case, quiet diplomacy was not the answer.

"More noise must be made about this. We must do everything we can to let him know he's not forgotten!" she wrote on X.

There was hope that the pair might be released after a ruling in 2023 by the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC) International Court of Arbitration, which held that the central bank was to blame for the contractual dispute.

But almost a year later nothing has made the pair's friends and family believe that they'll be released any time soon.

'I want to go home'

On the anniversary of their incarceration on Sunday, Australian media outlets have published a letter from Mr Pether in which he urges the Australian government to take action to free him.

"I was trapped when I was invited to Iraq for a meeting to resolve a contract dispute between my employer and our client, the Central Bank of Iraq. I went there to help with the rebuild. I was arrested at that meeting and imprisoned 3 years ago," he wrote.

"I've missed three Christmases and 4 Easters, multiple birthdays, 3 wedding anniversaries, and so much more. I want to go home. I want to go back to Australia and hear the birds, swim at the beach, sit and watch the harbour while the ferries come and go and feel the sun on my skin."

Mr Pether said he feels "abandoned" by the Australian government and is concerned he may never make it home.

There are concerns that Mr Pether's physical and mental well-being is being severely affected after three years of detention in Baghdad.

Updated: April 08, 2024, 3:32 AM