Australia

'It’s party night': Emotional reunion as Australian jailed in UAE for spying returns home

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Naim Aziz Abbas, an Iraqi-born former Sydney train driver, is finally back on Australian soil after being jailed by United Arab Emirates authorities, accused of spying.

It's been more than a year and a half since Australian man Naim Aziz Abbas has seen his brother after the former Sydney train driver was imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates, accused of passing secrets to Qatar.

But at the arrival gate of Sydney Airport on Friday night, the pair laughed and shared tearful hugs, as if no time had passed. 

Naim Aziz Abbas, an Iraqi-born former Sydney train driver who was jailed in the UAE, embraces his brother after touching down in Sydney.
Naim Aziz Abbas, an Iraqi-born former Sydney train driver who was jailed in the UAE, embraces his brother after touching down in Sydney.
SBS News

Moments after spotting waiting well-wishers, Mr Abbas burst into a rendition of "Advance Australia Fair" before declaring "tonight, it's party night". 

"When you are Australian, when you are abroad, Australia will never let you down, especially if you are innocent," he said, to cheers from the gathered crowd.

"I am proud to serve Australia ... Thank you, Australia."

Mr Abbas is surrounded by friends and family after touching down in Sydney.
Mr Abbas is surrounded by friends and family after touching down in Sydney.
SBS News

When asked about conditions within the UAE’s notorious prison system Mr Abbas declined to comment, and,  instead, he focussed on his plans for tonight.

“As Ned Kelly said, ‘such is life’,” he said, of the shock announcement he would be returning home. 

Up to 50 family members and friends gathered in the Sydney Airport arrival hall for the emotional occasion - joining others who had FaceTimed in from across the globe to witness the long-awaited reunion. 

The Australian citizen's brother spies him for the first time in the airport terminal.
The Australian citizen's brother spies him for the first time in the airport terminal.
Maani Truu

Through tears, a woman in Baghdad waved to the camera as Mr Abbas’ sister turned the phone to face the crowds of people.

Mr Abbas’ brother Adil said it was the happiest moment of his life as he waited outside the arrival gates for the Etihad plane to land. 

Media, friends and family greet Naim Aziz Abbas.
Media, friends and family greet Naim Aziz Abbas.
Maani Truu

“My brother came back from death,” he told SBS News. 

"He was sick, he is 65-years-old, he has been through a very, very hard time and as a family, we have been through, as well, the same situation."

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Adil Abbas on his brother's return
Adil Abbas on his brother's return

It had been a long road to this moment for the Abbas family, who have been fighting for the 65-year-old's release since his shock arrest in October 2017.

Mr Abbas was living in Dubai when he reportedly applied for a job in Qatar - which has a fraught relationship with the UAE - arousing suspicion from authorities.

Naim Aziz Abbas, a 65-year-old Iraqi-born Australian citizen.

During his time in Al Wathba prison, just outside Abu Dhabi, Mr Abbas' family claim he was tortured and forced to sign a false confession

In December last year, it was reported Mr Abbas had been sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of spying and fined the equivalent of almost $AUS2,000.

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Emotional reunion as Australian jailed in UAE for spying returns home
Emotional reunion as Australian jailed in UAE for spying returns home

But on Friday morning, Mr Abbas' brother Adil said he received an unexpected call from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that changed everything.

“I cannot express my feelings right now,” Adil Abbas told SBS News through tears on Friday morning.

 

“We have missed him for two years. We thank god for this outcome.”

Naim Aziz Abbas was arrested in October 2017, held on suspicion of espionage.
Naim Aziz Abbas was arrested in October 2017, held on suspicion of espionage.
Supplied

According to Adil, Mr Abbas was given a pardon to coincide with the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a practice the UAE has done several times before. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it had provided assistance to Mr Abbas.

After his arrival,  Mr Abbas headed home for a small celebratory iftar - the evening meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan - with his loved ones.

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