Australia has detained 2 asylum-seeking gay Saudi journalists for weeks: lawyer

Two gay Saudi journalists who sought asylum in Australia to avoid persecution at home have been held at an immigration detention center for weeks, according to their lawyer.

The pair, ages 46 and 35, arrived in Australia in October on a tourist visa, their lawyer Alison Battison told AFP. One of them admitted to customs officials that they intended to seek asylum, and they were taken into detention, she said.

Two gay Saudi journalists were detained by immigration authorities in Australia last month after admitting to seeking asylum. 

Two gay Saudi journalists were detained by immigration authorities in Australia last month after admitting to seeking asylum.  (anao.gov.au)

One of the men, who had worked with CNN and the BBC, said he was caught up in the government’s crackdown on journalists working for foreign media after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident who was killed in a consulate in Istanbul last year.

He told ABC he was called in for questioning by the state security; officials “hinted that they realized I was in a relationship with my partner and that I should stop working with the foreign media.”

In August, one of them received a call from a family member who warned that his partner would be killed if they didn’t end their relationship, AFP reported.

After that phone call, police asked the couple to come in for questioning, prompting them to flee Saudi Arabia, a country long known for draconian laws against homosexuality.

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The two men are now separated, with one in detention and the other being treated for tuberculosis in a hospital, while they await deportation, according to Battison.

“Them speaking up is actually their right – there’s no reason we should remain silent about human rights abuses in Australia,” she said.

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