Qatar government says invasive searches of women at airport ‘illegal actions’

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By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Invasive searches on female passengers from 10 aircraft at Doha’s Hamad airport violated standard procedures, a preliminary report by the Qatar government found, saying those responsible for the “illegal actions” have been referred to the public prosecution office.

The incident on Oct. 2, involving at least 13 Australian women on a state-owned Qatar Airways flight who were forced to disembark, and undergo invasive physical examinations in ambulances, drew a strong reaction from Australia this week.

The search was prompted by the discovery of an abandoned newborn in a bathroom at the airport, and Australia said it was awaiting a Qatari government report.

An emailed statement from Qatar’s government communications office on Friday said a preliminary investigation into “the attempted murder of a newborn baby found in a very serious condition”, and the subsequent actions of airport authorities to examine female passengers, revealed standard procedures were violated.

“Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office,” the statement said.

Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani expressed Qatar’s “sincerest apology for what some female travelers went through as a result of the

measures”, the statement said.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said on Friday she welcomed Qatar’s “acknowledgement of the offensive mistreatment of female passengers”, and the apology to the women.

“The statement of the Government of Qatar is consistent with our expectations for contrition, accountability and determination to avoid any repeat of this disturbing episode,” she said in a statement.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday the incident was appalling, and “as a father of daughters, I could only shudder at the thought that any woman, Australian or otherwise, would be subjected to that”.

Hamad airport is a major international airline hub, serving tens of millions of passengers and it was the first incident of its kind, the Qatar statement said.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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