UAE arrests UK citizen at football match for wearing Qatar team shirt: Report
The United Arab Emirates detained a British football fan after he wore a Qatar national team shirt to a football match in the Gulf country, UK newspaper The Guardian reported.
Ali Issa Ahmad, a 26-year-old UK citizen, went on holiday last month to the UAE, where he attended an Asian Cup match between Qatar and Iraq on 22 January, the newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Since June 2017, the UAE has prohibited "showing sympathy for Qatar on social media or by any other means of communication", according to the British government’s official foreign travel advice website.
"Offenders could be imprisoned and subject to a substantial fine," it said.
The young man was reportedly unaware that wearing the Qatar shirt was a punishable offence in the country, Amer Lokie, a friend of Ahmad's, told The Guardian after speaking to him on a monitored call on 31 January.
After his initial arrest, Ahmad was released and then rearrested over claims that he had made false allegations about security officials, Lokie told The Guardian.
"It seems that he was released after being detained, assaulted by the security men in the car and accused of promoting Qatar. He went to the police station to report the assault and was accused of telling lies about the incident," he said.
"We’re not clear about exactly what happened next but he has been held because he is accused of making false allegations against UAE security officials."
The UAE embassy told The Guardian that it was investigating the circumstances of the arrest and the British Foreign Office (FCO) said it was offering support.
"The UAE is a nation built on the rule of law and respect for individuals. We take any allegation of human rights violations extremely seriously – whether it concerns one of our citizens, or any of the 1.5 million Britons who visit us each year," a UAE embassy spokesperson told the newspaper.
The UAE’s prohibition on "showing sympathy to Qatar" was established in 2017, after the country cut off diplomatic relations with Doha in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain.
The four countries accused Qatar of promoting terrorism, supporting Iran and threatening their national security - allegations which Qatar denies.
Lokie also told The Guardian that Ahmad’s phone had been taken by officials and wiped clean, adding that Ahmad said he had been held in a small room for two days.
"He begged us to do whatever we can to get him released so we contacted the Foreign Office and asked them to help get him released," Lokie said.
"He said he would call us back but since then we have not heard anything from him. I am in shock that he was arrested and assaulted because of the football T-shirt he was wearing. We are all so worried about him. This is very serious."