Gay Saudi journalists set free from Australian detention

Two gay journalists from Saudi Arabia who were seeking asylum in Australia have been released from detention after pressure on the Morrison Government.

Sultan and Nassar* had been held by the Australian government for several months after claiming asylum. The two men fled Saudi Arabia in October claiming that they had been outed by the government who were cracking down on dissenting media.

Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records for LGBTI rights in the world, with people accused of same-sex relationships facing public whipping, torture and lifetime jail sentences or execution.

The two men arrived in Australia on a tourist visa, and told Australian officials upon their arrival that they were seeking asylum. They were immediately placed into detention.

The media, and LGBTIQ+ rights advocates, have been calling for their release, and the Greens recently successfully moved a motion in the senate highlighting the couple’s detention.

On Friday one of the two men, Nassar, walked free from detention. Sultan was held until today, after what was described by his lawyer as “bureaucratic incompetence.”

The pair have been in a relationship for 20 years.

LGBTI rights advocates slammed the federal government for bungling the release and have called on newly appointed replacement minister Alan Tudge to quickly take action. Tudge has taken on the Immigration portfolio while David Coleman is on leave.

Just.equal spokesperson, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said, “It would be absolutely heartless for the Government to release one partner and not the other at a time when so many are looking forward to enjoying time with family.”

“The Government must release the detained partner immediately or be condemned for allowing failures in our bureaucracy to continue to persecute someone who has come seeking our protection.”

Hinton-Teoh said the men should never have been detained. “The two men have fled a regime that would have gaoled them, or worse, only to be gaoled by the country they hoped would give them freedom.”

“Now, for no other reason that a mistake in paperwork, the government has separated them again and appears to have no sense of urgency in correcting the error.”

“Australia should not do the Saudi Government’s job.” Hinton-Teoh said.

“Minister Alan Tudge, don’t look forward to your time with family while the government continues to separate Sultan from his for no greater reason than someone made a mistake in the paperwork.”

*The couples names have been changed to protect their identities. 

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