LONDON: Australia has been accused of wrongfully depriving a man from Sydney of his citizenship after he was sentenced to death in Iraq.
In 2018, Ahmad Merhi, 30, was convicted of terrorism charges related to Daesh and sentenced to death by hanging.
He disputes the charges, claiming that he was pressured into admitting after being apprehended in Syria in 2017, three years after travelling there.
Merhi stated that while on death row, he received a letter from the Australian government informing him that he had been stripped of his citizenship, and that he attempted to pass the document to his counsel, Mohammad Khan, but he never received it.
Khan stated that he had received no clarification from the Australian government as to which legislation Merhi’s citizenship had been revoked.
Merhi’s mother claims she was notified of the decision over the phone but never received formal confirmation.
Khan believes Merhi was wrongfully deported due to the mistaken notion that he was a Lebanese dual national, when in fact he is simply eligible for Lebanese citizenship and has never possessed it.
People who commit terrorist activities can have their citizenship revoked under Australian law, but being rendered stateless is prohibited under international law. Khan has asked the government to reverse the decision.
Questions have also been raised about how Merhi came to be transferred from Syria to Iraq in the first place – by US forces as part of a contentious sequence of prisoner exchanges.
The Guardian newspaper asked Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil if Merhi’s case had been “raised between Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Iraqi counterpart Mustafa Al-Kadhimi… and whether she would assist the family in determining whether Merhi’s transfer from Syria to Iraq was legal and authorized by the Australian government.”
All questions were directed to O’Neil’s government department. The Department of Home Affairs stated that it does not comment on specific instances.
Merhi, who lost a leg in a Syrian bombardment, is being imprisoned in Nasiriyah jail, where he has had no interaction with Australian officials other than learning his citizenship had been revoked and he would lose legal aid, and where he is only infrequently able to speak to his family.
In late 2017, he was apprehended by Kurdish forces while attempting to cross into Turkey with his pregnant wife.
He is suspected of being a member of Daesh’s health department and of soliciting cash for the organisation as well as assisting Shadi Mohammad, the sister of the man who killed Australian police officer Curtis Cheng in Sydney in 2015, in fleeing to Syria.
Merhi’s relative told The Guardian that he should face justice in Australia and that the government should explain why his citizenship was revoked and how he was transported from Syria to Iraq.
“There’s no transparency about what happened with Ahmad. There’s no answers,” she said. “How was he captured? How was he placed in Iraq? Where is he going to be from day to day?”