Qatar airport police officers charged over invasive searches of women

Dubai: Qatar's public prosecutor has filed criminal charges against an unspecified number of police officers working at Qatar's Hamad airport after women said they were invasively searched there last month.

Some of the women were Australian and the incident sparked a major diplomatic row, with the Australian government expressing outrage at the incident and demanding Qatar investigate.

Judicial police officers working in the Airport Security Department broke the law, Qatar’s public prosecutor said.Credit:AP

Qatari officials said the searches were conducted in order to locate the mother of a newborn child found abandoned in a garbage bin in an airport bathroom.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the physical examinations of passengers bound for Sydney were appalling, while rights activists say such exams conducted under duress amount to sexual assault. Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani has apologised.

Judicial police officers working in the Airport Security Department broke the law when they summoned female medical staff to conduct the searches, the public prosecutor said in a statement on Monday, local time.

The police officers acted unilaterally and face "penalties of a maximum of three years," it said.

The public prosecutor did not say what crimes had been committed, how many police officers had been charged or detail the penalties they faced, such as imprisonment, if convicted.

The public prosecutor said it had also charged the child's mother, who had left the country, with attempted murder and that it had launched legal proceedings to arrest her.

A surveillance image, obtained by Doha News, shows officials holding an allegedly abandoned baby at Hamad International Airport. Credit:Doha News/AP

The mother, identified as of "Asian nationality", faces a maximum penalty of 15 years if convicted, the statement said.

It also said a male defendant had been identified as the father of the child after a DNA test, without saying how they were able to initially locate him.

The mother of the abandoned child had messaged the father telling him she had just given birth and that she was abandoning the child and leaving the country, the prosecutor said.

It was not clear what charges the father faced.

The baby girl is being taken care of by Qatari authorities.

The prosecutor said in the statement that the medical staff had been summoned to conduct "external examination of female passengers", contradicting Australian officials who said the women had been invasively searched.

Reuters with staff reporters

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