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Qatar: Rights group condemns charges against 'forcibly disappeared' Kenyan activist

Malcolm Bidali was charged by Qatar for allegedly taking foreign money to spread disinformation
Malcolm Bidali was held by Qatar without charge for nearly three weeks in solitary confinement (Supplied)

A rights group has called on Qatar to release Kenyan rights activist Malcolm Bidali after he was charged with allegedly taking "foreign" money to spread disinformation inside the country. 

Last month, Bidali was detained from his home in Qatar and taken to an undisclosed location where he was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day over three weeks. 

Writing under the pseudonym Noah, Bidali would report regularly for migrantrights.org on the conditions and realities faced by many workers inside the energy-rich country as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup. 

During his detention, Bidali had no access to legal representation, with his mother saying he was only in contact with representatives from the Kenyan embassy in Qatar. 

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The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) on Tuesday condemned the charges against Bidali and said they fitted a "common pattern of violations practised by the State Security Bureau against citizens and residents, including migrant workers".

"GCHR calls on the government of Qatar to immediately release Bidali, drop all charges against him, and protect public freedoms, including freedom of expression, on and off the internet," the rights group said in a statement. 

"The Qatari authorities, hoping for a successful organisation of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, should first fulfil all of their human rights obligations and in particular protect the civil and human rights of foreign workers."

Last week, a coalition of rights groups, including migrantrights.org and Human Rights Watch, condemned Bidali's arrest and the charges levied against him by the Qatari state. 

"While further details have not been released, it seems clear these charges are directly linked to his blog posts and advocacy, despite earlier reassurances from Qatari authorities that his arrest was unrelated to his activism," migrantrights.org said in a tweet. 

"It's critical to underscore that none of @Noaharticuluates blog posts and initiatives can be considered 'disinformation'. The content of his advocacy was always nuanced and multi-layered, with the sole intent of improving conditions in Qatar - not maligning the country."

Before his arrest, Bidali appeared at a video conference with other civil society and trade union groups describing the reality faced by many workers in Qatar. 

He also received a suspicious URL on social media before his arrest that Amnesty on Friday confirmed could have been used to track his whereabouts and record his IP address. 

The rights group, however, could not confirm if Qatar had sent the suspicious link.