Middle East

Qatar identifies mother of newborn girl abandoned at international airport

Abu Dhabi (CNN) – Qatar says it has identified the parents of a newborn baby found abandoned at Doha international airport last month, in an incident that sparked widespread anger after more than a dozen women said they were invasively searched during the initial investigation.

In a statement Monday, a Qatari prosecutor said that an unspecified number of airport security staff responsible for carrying out examinations of female passengers have been charged and could face prison sentences of up to three years.

The prosecutor said it had also charged the child’s mother, who has left the country, with attempted murder and that it had launched legal proceedings to arrest her. The mother identified only as of “Asian nationality” could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, the statement said.

The mother is believed to have boarded and departed on a flight out of Qatar sometime after abandoning the infant at the airport. The statement did not say where she had traveled to.

Authorities in Qatar said that the newborn baby was found either in or beside a trash can in a bathroom at Hamad International Airport in Doha on October 2. The infant is now being taken care of by Qatari authorities.

Following the discovery of the infant, more than 18 women from 10 different flights, including 13 Australians aboard a Sydney-bound plane, were subjected to compulsory intimate medical examinations by airport security.

The examinations caused outrage in Australia, where the actions have been likened to sexual assault. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denounced the incident as “appalling” and “unacceptable.”

According to the Qatari statement, an investigation into the incident revealed that “some employees” at Hamad International Airport had “acted unilaterally” to summon female medical staff to perform examinations of female passengers.

“(They believed) that what they were doing was in conformity with the law,” the prosecution statement said on Monday.

The statement did not say what crimes had been committed, or how many staff members had been charged.

The government of Qatar issued a statement on October 28 apologizing for “any distress or infringement on the personal freedom of any traveler” as a result of the incident.

Parents identified

According to the prosecutor’s statement, investigations revealed that the mother was in a relationship with an unnamed man “also of a nationality belonging to an Asian country.” The statement added that “as result of this relationship, the child was born.”

In Qatar, sex outside of marriage remains a criminal act. It is not uncommon for women to abandon children to avoid imprisonment.

The father of the child told the Qatari prosecutors that the mother had sent him a message and a picture of the child immediately after the birth, in which she said that “she (had) dumped the child and fled to her country.”

“While departing the country, the mother threw the newborn child in the trash of one of the bathrooms of the airport’s departure hall, and boarded the plane to her destination,” the statement said.

The statement does not make clear when or where the mother gave birth or how authorities were able to locate and identify the man.

“The crime of attempting to kill an infant immediately after birth, and in the circumstances in which she was found, is one of the most heinous crimes and most contrary to human values. It is punishable by the Qatari Penal Code, with a maximum of fifteen years.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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