Australia denied post for top Iraqi bioweapons scientist

It was recently revealed that Australia denied a former top Iraqi biological weapons scientist a position at Victoria University in Melbourne in 2008.

The Australian federal government rejected a request from the United States to find employment for Professor Ali al Za’ag as part of a U.S. State Department program that provided jobs for Iraqi experts in weapons of mass destruction, according to

A U.S. cable sent to Canberra in March of last year said that Za’ag was denied a visa. Australian security officials said the visa was refused for a number of security, immigration and legal reasons.

Za’ag is no stranger to Australia. He was awarded his doctorate in microbiology from the University of Queensland in 1987, reports. His work history for the next six years is unknown, but he founded the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Baghdad in 1993.

The United States imprisoned Za’ag for 38 days after the Iraq invasion and interrogated him 15 times between January and March 2004. Embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks refer to Za’ag as “the former biological weapons scientist during the Hussein regime.”

The U.S. government has often offered top ranking former Iraqi weapons scientists jobs as a means of reducing the risk that their skills and knowledge could be acquired by countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Since 2006, Professor Za’ag has been working in the United States on the federal government’s Iraq Scientist Engagement Program to develop an international program to promote the safe use of biological materials, reports. In addition, he has developed a new forensic DNA training center in Iraq.

Despite his refusal in 2008, Za’ag reapplied for a visiting academic visa to work at Victoria University. The status of his request is not known.