An Australian Senator has voiced concern about what a multi-million dollar deal between national airline Qantas and middle eastern airline Emirates will mean for gay passengers traveling through Dubai.
‘I refer to Article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai that imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy, will there be warnings to gay Australians transiting through Dubai?’ said Liberal Senator Helen Kroger said in parliament on Wednesday.
The 10-year deal between the two airlines was finalized earlier this month and is hoped to revive Qantas’ huge financial losses. It will mean Qantas moves its European stopover hub from Singapore to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from April 2013.
Krogar said the deal was ‘great for the Australian economy’ but the country was in danger of putting commercial interests before ‘the human rights and safekeeping of Australian citizens’.
As well as gay citizens, Kroger said she was concerned about Jewish and Christian Australians traveling to Israel because of UAE’s boycott of the country.
And Kroger pointed to an incident in June 2008 when Australian citizen Alicia Gall had her drink spiked and was raped by four co-workers in a hotel in the UAE. After Gall reported the assault to the authorities she was arrested for having sex outside marriage and imprisoned for eight months.
‘What precautions and warnings will Qantas provide unmarried passengers who are single or in de facto relationships?’ Kroger said.
As a precautionary tale Kroger spoke about the horrific experiences of Matthew Joyce, a businessman from Victoria, the state she represents.
Joyce was arrested in Dubai over a business dispute and imprisoned in solitary confinement for seven weeks.
‘He did not see the light of day once in this period,’ said Kroger. ‘The room was two by three metres, with no windows or bathroom, and with a grass mat in the corner for a bed. When he was finally allowed to see his wife a month later, he was white, clammy and weeping, with sores from the cold floor and malnutrition.’
Kroger called for the immediate release of Joyce and his business parter Marcus Lee who are under house arrest, saying that will ‘serve to allay concerns that may continue to exist over possible commercial endeavours in the UAE’.