By Natalie O'Brien
MENTAL and physical torture, including electric shock treatment, is claimed to have been inflicted on a 23-year-old Australian man held without charge in a secret Iraqi jail for the past 18 months.
In the first contact made since his detention, Ahmed Jamal has revealed to Australian consular officials that he is still being threatened by prison authorities and is suffering memory loss and skin rashes.
His plight, which was revealed yesterday, has prompted his family's lawyer, Stephen Kenny, to call for "urgent and immediate action" by the Federal Government to protect the interests of the Sydney man.
"The delays that have occurred in getting assistance to Mr Jamal were a great concern and our concerns have been justified," Mr Kenny said last night.
Australian embassy officers flew in a US helicopter to Suleimaniyah in northern Iraq 10 days ago to visit Mr Jamal for the first time since he was detained for unexplained "security reasons" in September 2004 by members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls northern Iraq.
Mr Jamal was met and interviewed at the headquarters of the Kurdish intelligence agency, known as Asayesh.
Consular officials told Mr Jamal's family that he was depressed and they did not raise the torture allegations with Kurdish authorities at Mr Jamal's specific request because of his fears he would be tortured further.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman confirmed last night that Mr Jamal had told them he had been tortured after his arrest.
"This is a matter of serious concern to us, which is why we passed on the claims to Mr Jamal's family and lawyer," the spokesman said.
"We have on numerous occasions make clear to the PUK that we expect his welfare to be protected."
But Mr Jamal's father, Mahmoud, made his son's plight public in an attempt to get his son help.
Mahmoud Jamal, who lives in Sydney, has been trying to get help for his son since Ahmed's disappearance while on a trip to the Middle East to find a wife.
Civil libertarians have criticised the federal Government's handling of the situation, saying it should make the same efforts to secure the release of Mr Jamal as it did for Douglas Wood when the Australian engineer was kidnapped in Iraq.
The revelations about Mr Jamal's treatment come after reports last year that police and security units in northern Iraq had abducted people and smuggled them off to secret prisons in the cities of Arbil and Suleimaniyah.
It has also been reported that the detainees were held for months and tortured.
Mr Kenny has been told that Mr Jamal had been held without charge because "there were no laws in Iraq that permitted him to be charged".
It has previously been reported that Mr Jamal was arrested because his 31-year-old brother Saleh had been jailed in Lebanon in relation to terrorist activities.
Saleh Jamal is the fugitive terror suspect imprisoned in Lebanon on weapons charges and was reported to have threatened a terrorist attack on Australia.
The PUK representative in Australia has not returned calls to The Australian.