Two gay Saudi journalists who were locked in Australian detention have now been released on bridging visas, the men’s lawyer confirmed.
The gay couple, known under the pseudonyms Sultan and Nassar, were locked in an Australian detention centre in October after fleeing Saudi Arabia.
But while Nassar was released on Friday, Sultan’s release was delayed due to a bureaucratic bungle.
Lawyer Alison Battisson said both men are free and will soon be reunited. The Australian government granted both men bridging visas while their cases move through the asylum process.
“Thank you to everyone who persisted throughout the campaign,” Battisson tweeted.
“Community-led action can make a big impact.
“There are still LGBT+ people in immigration detention. We need to maintain our advocacy to fight for their right to asylum.”
just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh said he is “so relieved” both men were now free.
“Thank you to everyone who joined our call to action and supported Nassar and Sultan in this horrendous experience,” he said.
Gay Saudis Sultan and Nassar ‘faced imprisonment or worse’
Ivan Hinton-Teoh visited Nassar and Sultan in the detention centre earlier this month and has campaigned for the men’s release.
He told ABC Radio the men were under 24-hour guard in the centre after violent threats from other detainees.
“I just couldn’t imagine being in their shoes, they were terrified and exhausted,” he said.
Hinton-Teoh said the men fled Saudi Arabia because the government allegedly targeted one of them for work he’d done with global media agencies.
“Rather than misconduct charges relating to his profession, they used his relationship to control and manipulate him. Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“The men fled because they knew that they were about to be pulled in on the charges. If they had stayed, they would have been imprisoned or potentially killed.
“They chose Australia as a place to come to, seeking protection.”
On arrival in Australia, they cleared passport control but were detained when questioned at customs.
“At the airport, a customs officers asked them do you intend to seek asylum here,” Hinton-Teoh said.
“They answered honestly and said yes. They were taken aside, had their phones taken away and were handcuffed and taken to the detention centre.”
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