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Fresh twist in 'disturbing' Qatar airport case after Australian women were invasively strip searched

The Qatari government has vowed to prosecute airport officials who made Australian women endure 'illegal' vaginal exams and invasive questioning over an abandoned baby. 

Airport guards submitted 18 women flying to Sydney to intrusive medical tests after a premature baby was found alive inside a bin at the Doha airport on October 2.

Of those 18, 13 were Australian nationals, prompting a diplomatic crisis that elicited a stern reaction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Initial findings into the incident have found 'standard procedures were violated' in the handling of the search, after it sparked international outcry.

Authorities confirmed on Friday night that airport officials who oversaw the operation may face criminal charges over the incident, after the Qatari prime minister intervened. 

Mr Morrison previously said he may demand an apology or compensation for the women affected after the investigation was complete. 

A number of medical professionals cradle the baby (pictured) which was found at the Hamad International Airport, prompting an invasive strip search

CCTV footage released by local media showed first responders crowded around the baby (pictured) 

In a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the examinations were 'unacceptable' and 'appalling.'

'As a father of a daughter, I could only shudder at the thought that anyone, Australian or otherwise, would be subjected to that,' he said.   

In a statement on Friday night, the Qatari government confirmed it plans to prosecute those involved in the search.

'Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office,' the government said.  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) previously said he may demand an apology or compensation for the women affected after the investigation was complete

His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior (pictured) has offered the government's 'sincerest apologies'

They said specialised task forces are 'reviewing and identifying any potential gaps in the procedures and protocols' to address them and 'ensure that any violations are avoided in the future.'  

'His Excellency the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior [Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani] expressed the Government of the State of Qatar’s sincerest apology for what some female travelers went through as a result of the measures,' the government said.

'This incident is the first of its kind at HIA, which has served tens of millions of passengers without any issues like this before. 

'Qatar is fully committed to the safety and security of all travelers arriving to or transiting through HIA.' 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has welcomed the Qatari government's apology over the 'offensive mistreatment of female passengers.'

Marise Payne issued a statement on Friday saying she looks forward to continuing to work with the government on a response to the situation.

'The preliminary investigation of Qatar into this incident has shown illegal actions occurred,' she said. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne (pictured) has welcomed the Qatari government's apology over the 'offensive mistreatment of female passengers'

'It is an important step that these offences have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office.

'Australian passengers will be reassured that Qatar has established a specialised task force to review procedures and protocols to ensure there is never a repeat of this incident.'

She said the response is 'consistent with our expectations for contrition, accountability and determination.'   

The baby was found alive in a bin at the Hamad International Airport on October 2, causing delays to flights, including one to Sydney. 

Passengers say women on board were forced to remove their underwear and undergo invasive medical examinations as officials tried to find the mother.

The baby's mother was not found and the women were eventually allowed to depart before serving hotel quarantine in Sydney.  

13 Australian women were subjected to invasive searches in Qatar after a premature baby was found abandoned in a plastic bag and under rubbish in an airport bathroom. Pictured: Police at Doha Airport in March

The Qatari government said the baby had been abandoned, concealed in a plastic bag and hidden under rubbish.

'The baby girl was rescued from what appeared to be a shocking and appalling attempt to kill her,' it said on Wednesday. 

'The infant is now safe under medical care in Doha.'

The government said while the aim of the urgent search was to stop the perpetrators from escaping, it regretted any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveller caused by the incident.

It promised to share the investigation with international partners. 

The baby was found alive in a bin at the Hamad International Airport before flights - including one to Sydney - were delayed as officials tried to find the mother (pictured, a Qatar Airways plane at the airport in April)

In a statement, the Qatari government said a newborn was found in a garbage bin, concealed in a plastic bag and under rubbish on October 2 (pictured, travellers are seen in face masks at Hamad International Airport in April)

In a previous statement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs described the events as 'grossly disturbing' 'offensive' and 'deeply concerning' during senate estimates.   

Meanwhile, the Transport Workers' Union NSW branch is threatening a boycott of Qatar Airways planes arriving in Sydney.

The TWU is considering industrial action to ban planes servicing, cleaning or refuelling at Sydney Airport.  

'This is just downright sexual assault sanctioned by a government and we can't have that,' union boss Richard Olsen told the Nine Network on Wednesday.

Hamad International Airport management said the baby was safe and being cared for by medical and social workers (file image)

Wolfgang Babeck, who was on the flight to Sydney, said that many of the women were distressed when they returned to the plane.

'When the women came back, many of them or probably all of them were upset - one of them was in tears, a younger woman,' he told the ABC. 

'People couldn't believe what had happened.' 

A source in Doha briefed on the incident said: '(Officials) were forcing women to undergo invasive body searches - basically forced Pap smears.' 

'The state of Qatar regrets any distress or infringement': Statement from Qatar government 

On 2 October a newborn was found in a trashcan concealed in a plastic bag and buried under garbage at the Hamad International Airport and the baby was rescued from an appalling attempt to kill her and the infant is now safe under medical care in Doha. 

This was the first instance of an abandoned infant being found in such condition at the airport and is egregious and life-threatening violation of the law triggered an immediate search for the parents, including on flights within the vicinity of where the newborn was found.

While the aim of the urgently decided search was to prevent the perpetrators of the horrible crime from escaping, the state of Qatar regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveller caused by this action.

His Excellency of Qatar, the Prime Minister and Minister of interior of the state of Qatar has directed that a comprehensive transparent investigation into the incident be conducted. 

The results of the investigation will be shared with our international partners. The state of Qatar remains committed to ensuring the safety and security and comfort of all travellers transiting through the country. 

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