Wednesday, April 27, 2022

High-level diplomatic efforts have been stepped up in a bid to secure the release of a Roscommon resident whose health, his family have warned, is deteriorating in a Baghdad prison.

The diplomatic efforts come after a United Nations body said the continued detention of Robert Pether, a construction engineer who lived with his family in Elphin, and his Egyptian colleague Khalid Radwan was arbitrary and demanded the pair’s immediate release.

Roscommon resident Robert Pether is currently serving a five-year sentence in Baghdad.

Mr Pether’s wife, Desree, told RTÉ Prime Time that her husband is frequently dizzy and that he is showing signs of a skin cancer relapse.

“He’s in prison and he’s losing weight again. He’s already lost nearly 40kg and he’s struggling to maintain a healthy weight,” Ms Pether said.

“Five and a half months went past before they got to court. They saw their lawyers for the first time, two days before court, and they went to court and they were convinced that finally given the opportunity to show all of the evidence, proving they’re 100% innocent, that they would be out.”

The Australian-born Irish resident was the head engineer on a project in Iraq for over four years, however there was a contract dispute with relation to an extension of time.

In April 2021, Mr Pether and Mr Radwan were invited to Iraq to settle the contractual dispute between their Dubai-based employer CME Consulting and the Central Bank of Iraq but were arrested. They were sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $12m penalty over allegations that their employer spent funds that should have been paid to others involved in the building of the bank’s new headquarters.

Peter Griffin, a lawyer working pro bono to secure the pair’s release, described the case as “state-sponsored abduction”.

“It was an entrapment designed to lure two individuals who did not even reside in Iraq to Iraq – and thereafter to essentially hold them hostage to some sort of criminal dispute.”

The Pether family said that the recent release of Irish businessman Richard O’Halloran, who returned home earlier this year after being detained in China for three years, has given them hope.

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