Irish woman Desree Pether continues to call for the release of her husband, Australian national and Irish resident Robert Pether, who has been detained in Iraq since April 7, 2021.

"He's absolutely rock bottom and absolutely devastated that we've come to this point and still not one step in a positive direction," Desree told RTÉ News on January 3.

Desree said she recently had a meeting at the Iraqi Embassy in Dublin where she again asked them for the opportunity to speak with officials on her husband's behalf.

She says she wants the opportunity to "just convey the truth, the truth that we've been speaking for a thousand days that this contract dispute between his employer and the Central Bank was used as an opportunity for an agenda that had nothing to do with them.

"My husband is completely innocent. If only they were given the opportunity to present the evidence, multiple evidence showing this, then this will all be over."

Pether, an engineer with the Dubai-based CME Consulting, was arrested alongside his Egyptian colleague Khalid Radwan "without explanation" in Baghdad on April 7, 2021, following a contract dispute between the men's employer and the Iraqi government.

RTÉ News reports that in August 2021, Pether and Radwan were sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $12 million penalty over allegations that their employer spent funds that should have been paid to others involved in the building of the bank's new headquarters.

Later, in March 2022, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Pether and Radwan's arrests were "arbitrary," that they had not been afforded their proper rights, and that Pether had been subject to "ill-treatment."

The Working Group said that in its view, "the Government of Iraq failed to respect the right of Messrs. Pether and Radwan to legal assistance at all times, which is inherent in the right to liberty and security of person and the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law ..."

The Working Group called for Pether and Radwan's immediate release, as well as compensation and other reparations. It also said it would refer the case to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for appropriate action.

In February 2023, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)’s International Court of Arbitration found that Iraq's Central Bank was at fault with Pether and Radwan's employer and ordered it to pay the company.

UK human rights lawyer Peter Griffin, who is representing Pether, told BBC that the ICC finding "completely undercuts Iraq's argument that Robert's imprisonment is justified" by the "supposed wrongdoings" of the company he worked for.

"That is now totally disproven and cannot provide the basis for his incarceration," Griffin said.

Despite the Working Group's opinion and the ICC ruling in favor of Pether and Radwan's employers, the men remain in jail.

In Co Roscommon, Desree and her children recently spent their third Christmas without Robert.

"It's just very hard on them," Desree said of her and Robert's three children, Flynn, 20, Oscar, 18, and Nala,11.

"They miss their dad terribly. So many milestones, he's missed. So much time has been stolen from us all. It's a constant struggle every day."

Desree said that Robert "categorically" does not want her to travel to Iraq to visit him in light of what he's endured. 

While communication had been sporadic, it has improved. "Now he gets to talk to us pretty much most days through Zoom, but without video," Desree said. "We're not allowed to see him and he's not allowed to see us."

Robert does have access to Internet now which is a "double-edged sword," Desree said, as he can see the stories about him, but he also sees the lack of progress.

Desree added that she and her family are not seeking consular assistance from Ireland, rather she is hoping to ask in the coming weeks for "Ireland to stand up for Robert's human rights."