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LONDON (Reuters) – An Australian engineer imprisoned in Iraq has sent a letter to his family from prison warning he faces a “death sentence” for potential untreated skin cancer, The Guardian reported on Monday.

Robert Pether, who was detained in Iraq last year after a contract dispute over his architectural firm’s work on a new building for the country’s Central Bank, has warned he “will not be going home”.

The 47-year-old had previously survived skin cancer in 2005 and, before his arrest, attended regular screenings to monitor his condition.

But Pether warned in the letter that prison authorities, including a dermatologist brought in for consultations, ignored the growth of a new lesion on his ear – in the same location as a previous melanoma.

In June, he began noticing rapid changes in the lesion and alerted prison officials. But a dermatologist only prescribed Pether topical cream, which didn’t arrive.

“Time is running out and I have a narrow window of opportunity – certainly less time than I need to be imprisoned,” he wrote.

“How do you tell a little girl who loves unicorns and cats that her daddy won’t be coming home?

“How do you tell your children that you are proud of them, but that you will not share with them the distinctions (and pitfalls) of their lives?

“And hardest of all, how do you tell your wife, who really is the other half of you, that you won’t keep the promise you made to grow old together?”

“These are the questions I currently face every day – from the moment I wake up and sit on the cell floor for the first count of the day, to the last thing of the night, when I look at the photos of my family on the wall next to my bed.

“Hope is not given up, miracles can (and do) happen. However, the reality right now looks grim for me and my family.

Earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appealed to his Iraqi counterpart Mustafa Al-Kadhimi about Pether’s situation.

A spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said: ‘The Australian Government continues to defend Mr Pether in the strongest possible terms and at the highest level.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a report on Pether’s detention in March, warning it was “arbitrary” and “a violation of international law”. The group called for his immediate and unconditional release.

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