Australia’s foreign minister has welcomed Qatar’s move to prosecute those responsible for exposing female travelers to gynecological searches at the Gulf state’s main airport last month.
Women on 10 flights leaving Doha, including at least 13 Australians, were forced to submit to investigations as authorities searched for the mother of a newborn baby who was left in an airport bathroom on October 2.
Faced with international condemnation led by a furious Australia, Qatar said on Friday that those behind the incident had been referred to prosecution.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Friday she had spoken to her Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who “expressed his sincere apology” and “gave a strong assurance that Qatar fully recognizes the seriousness of these events and will ensure that they are never repeated “.
“We are very pleased with the recognition given by the Qatari government in connection with the recent events at Hamad airport. We are pleased with the investigation process they have carried out,” she told reporters on Saturday.
Payne said Australia has had “very constructive cooperation with Qatar” on the issue, hoping the legal process was “transparent and appropriate and proportionate”.
The incident only came to light after affected Australian passengers spoke. Since then, it has turned out that citizens from the UK, New Zealand and France were also exposed to the invasive searches.
Qatar said the abandoned baby girl – who survived – was wrapped in plastic and left to die in a trash can in the bathroom, prompting sources who said a shutdown of Hamad International Airport.
Women were then taken from planes to ambulances on the tarmac, where they were subjected to physical examinations to see if they had recently given birth.
Qatar faces potentially devastating commercial damage and reputation and has repeatedly promised to guarantee the future “safety and security” of passengers.
Sex and birth out of wedlock can be punished with imprisonment in the ultra-conservative Muslim country, which has struggled to reassure critics that its promises of women’s rights, labor relations and democracy are credible within hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
hr / axn