Lawyer fears for 'tortured' Australian
The lawyer for an Australian man being detained without charge in northern Iraq says he fears publicising the case may cause his client to be tortured again.

Ahmed Jamal, 23, has been held by Kurdish Authorities since being detained while on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2004.

When Australian officials visited the Sydney man, he claimed he had been tortured.

His Adelaide-based lawyer Stephen Kenny says Mr Jamal asked the officials not to publicise the matter for fear he would suffer further torture.

But Mr Kenny says remaining silent on the issue puts his client at greater risk.

He says it is now vital the Federal Government acts appropriately to protect Mr Jamal.

"If the Australian Government now fails him then of course he is at greater risk," Mr Kenny said.

"The responsibility lies with the Australian Government."

Family links

Mr Kenny says Mr Jamal may have been detained because of terrorist allegations against his family members.

Mr Jamal's brother, Saleh, is in a Lebanese prison for plotting subversive activities.

He also faces charges in Australia over the 1998 drive-by shooting at Sydney's Lakemba Police Station.

Another brother, Mohammed, was charged with planning a terrorist act in Sydney last year.

Mr Kenny says those activities may have caught the attention of the Kurdish authorities.

"Of course there is a chance that he's not done anything and that he's been detained because of his association with his brothers," he said.

Visit delay

Mr Kenny says despite a series of dignitaries visiting Iraq, including the Prime Minister, it was not until the end of last month that Mr Jamal met an Australian consular official.

"I know it's important to sell wheat to Iraq, but it's also important to protect the humans rights of Australians," he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says extraordinary security measures were needed to get consular help Mr Jamal.

The department says the Australian Defence Force provided security for the officials, who flew into northern Iraq by helicopter and their armoured vehicle was targeted in several roadside bombings.

The Federal Government says it is taking the torture allegations seriously and further consular visits are being planned.

Australian prisoner's torture claims 'taken seriously'
Australian consular officials were only recently granted access to him.

Mr Jamal claims to have been tortured immediately after his arrest.

Prime Minister John Howard has told Southern Cross Radio every effort is being made to help Mr Jamal.

"He's in a country whose legal system at present does not operate the way ours does," he said.

"We, in part, have been able to make contact with him because of representations made to representatives of the Iraqi people in Australia and he's in Kurdistan, the Kurdish part of Iraq, and we'll continue to help him in every way we can."

Further consular visits are being planned and a DFAT spokeswoman says the man's family and lawyer are being closely consulted.

But lawyer Stephen Kenny has accused the Federal Government of not doing all it can to help his client.

Mr Kenny says the Australian official who visited Mr Jamal found him in a distressed state.

"John Howard can arrange his own transport around Iraq but until I became involved in this case and started agitating on behalf of the family some 15 months had passed and it was 18 months before an Australian citizen went to see this person," Mr Kenny said.

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  • Australian 'tortured' in secret Iraqi prison
    By Natalie O'Brien

    MENTAL and physical torture, including electric shock treatment, is claimed to have been inflicted on a 23-year-old Australian man held without charge in a secret Iraqi jail for the past 18 months.

    In the first contact made since his detention, Ahmed Jamal has revealed to Australian consular officials that he is still being threatened by prison authorities and is suffering memory loss and skin rashes.

    His plight, which was revealed yesterday, has prompted his family's lawyer, Stephen Kenny, to call for "urgent and immediate action" by the Federal Government to protect the interests of the Sydney man.

    "The delays that have occurred in getting assistance to Mr Jamal were a great concern and our concerns have been justified," Mr Kenny said last night.

    Australian embassy officers flew in a US helicopter to Suleimaniyah in northern Iraq 10 days ago to visit Mr Jamal for the first time since he was detained for unexplained "security reasons" in September 2004 by members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls northern Iraq.

    Mr Jamal was met and interviewed at the headquarters of the Kurdish intelligence agency, known as Asayesh. Consular officials told Mr Jamal's family that he was depressed and they did not raise the torture allegations with Kurdish authorities at Mr Jamal's specific request because of his fears he would be tortured further.

    A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman confirmed last night that Mr Jamal had told them he had been tortured after his arrest.

    "This is a matter of serious concern to us, which is why we passed on the claims to Mr Jamal's family and lawyer," the spokesman said.

    "We have on numerous occasions make clear to the PUK that we expect his welfare to be protected."

    But Mr Jamal's father, Mahmoud, made his son's plight public in an attempt to get his son help.

    Mahmoud Jamal, who lives in Sydney, has been trying to get help for his son since Ahmed's disappearance while on a trip to the Middle East to find a wife.

    Civil libertarians have criticised the federal Government's handling of the situation, saying it should make the same efforts to secure the release of Mr Jamal as it did for Douglas Wood when the Australian engineer was kidnapped in Iraq.

    The revelations about Mr Jamal's treatment come after reports last year that police and security units in northern Iraq had abducted people and smuggled them off to secret prisons in the cities of Arbil and Suleimaniyah.

    It has also been reported that the detainees were held for months and tortured.

    Mr Kenny has been told that Mr Jamal had been held without charge because "there were no laws in Iraq that permitted him to be charged".

    It has previously been reported that Mr Jamal was arrested because his 31-year-old brother Saleh had been jailed in Lebanon in relation to terrorist activities.

    Saleh Jamal is the fugitive terror suspect imprisoned in Lebanon on weapons charges and was reported to have threatened a terrorist attack on Australia.

    The PUK representative in Australia has not returned calls to The Australian.

    Consul's risky Iraq mission
    Natalie O'Brien and Verity Edwards

    AUSTRALIA'S consul-general in Iraq, Alan Elliott, was targeted by surface-to-air missiles and narrowly avoided a roadside bomb attack as he led a mission to check on the welfare of Ahmed Jamal, a 23-year-old Australian who claims to have been tortured while held in a secret Iraqi jail for 18 months.

    It was one of the most dangerous consular visits undertaken by an Australian official and it had been more than a year in the making.

    The operation, backed by coalition forces, involved using a US helicopter, an armoured vehicle and a "significant" number of armed guards to escort Mr Elliott the 250km from Baghdad to the Kurdish town of Suleimaniyah, where Mr Jamal is being held. "Mr Elliott and his team risked their lives to provide consular assistance to an Australian in difficult and dangerous circumstances," a senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official said.

    When Mr Elliott, a 33-year DFAT veteran, finally made it to the headquarters of the Kurdish intelligence agency, known as Asayesh, Mr Jamal told him he had been subjected to mental and physical torture.

    Depressed and suffering from memory loss, Mr Jamal begged Mr Elliott not to raise the issue with the authorities because he feared further torture.

    It was the first contact made since his detention. His plight has prompted the Jamal family's lawyer, Stephen Kenny, to call for "urgent and immediate action" by the federal Government.

    John Howard promised yesterday to provide whatever assistance possible for Mr Jamal.

    "He's in a country whose legal system at present, because of the circumstances of that country, does not operate the way ours does," the Prime Minister said.

    A DFAT spokesman said officers were looking at the best ways to make representations on Mr Jamal's behalf to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

    Plans by DFAT to visit him in December 2004 were cancelled because of unrest in the lead-up to elections.

    Mr Elliott's trip to Suleimaniyah 11 days ago was supposed to be a 24-hour mission but turned into a three-day saga.

    His helicopter pilot was forced to launch diversionary flares when they were targeted by missiles.

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