SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia will press Lebanese officials to investigate claims of torture made by two of its nationals detained there on suspicion of terrorism activities, an official said Wednesday.
Ahmed Elomar, one of four Australians arrested in the northern port city of Tripoli two weeks ago, said he was blindfolded and beaten during lengthy interrogations before being released without charge.
The Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade said one of the two Australians still in custody had also complained about his treatment at the hands of the Lebanese authorities.
“We take these claims very seriously and have raised allegations of mistreatment at senior levels of government, military and judiciary who assured us the men were in good health,” a department spokesman told AFP.
The spokesman, who did not elaborate on the mistreatment, said Australia’s ambassador in Beirut would pursue the allegations at the highest level.
“We will press for an investigation and will support the families’ request for an independent medical examinations of the man in custody,” he said.
“We will continue to stress the expressions of the Australian government that the men be well cared for and detained in line with international humanitarian standards.”
Elomar, a champion super flyweight boxer, has alleged he was blindfolded and beaten during his interrogation, which included questions about links to Al-Qaeda fugitive Osama bin Laden.
“They started asking me about bin Laden and names I’ve never heard of before,” he told The Australian.
“And obviously, when they do the interrogation, they hit you. I was getting hits from day one to the last day. Like with a stick they hit you.”
He was released without charge along with his friend Mohammad Basal and both men have returned to their families in northern Lebanon.
“It’s just a case of mistaken identity — they’ve got nothing on us,” Basal told The Australian.
The newspaper said Lebanese authorities were close to charging the two men still in custody, former Sydneysider Omar Hadba and Ibrahim Sabour, a former Sydney financial advisor.