A British man has been arrested in the United Arab Emirates for wearing a Qatar jersey to the team’s AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 match against Iraq. According to The Guardian, 26-year-old Ali Issa Ahmad was held over claims that he had made false allegations about security officials after his initial arrest.
Ahmad was on holiday in the UAE and decided to attend the match that was held on January 22. The country’s Foreign Office (FCO) contains a warning in its section containing information for travelers against the promotion of Qatar in any way. "The UAE authorities announced on 7 June 2017 that showing sympathy for Qatar on social media or by any other means of communication is an offence. Offenders could be imprisoned and subject to a substantial fine."
"You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK," it further adds.
The sanctions are related to the breaking off of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Qatar in May 2017. UAE accuses Qatar of funding and hosting terror groups and thus undermining security and stability in the region.
Ahmad was granted one phone call on January 31 following his arrest and that he used to contact his friend Amer Lokie. "He just went to watch a football match while he was on holiday in UAE and says he was arrested and beaten after being accused of wearing a football shirt which promoted Qatar. When he managed to call me officials were sitting next to him so he couldn't say too much. He wasn't given very long to speak to me and I'm not exactly sure what happened," Lokie was quoted as saying by 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.
"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. He said he is being held in a place called Al Sharjar."
Lokie said that Ahmad's phone had been taken by officials and wiped, adding that his friend had told him he was 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."
An FCO spokesperson said that it is looking into the matter. "We are providing assistance to a British man arrested in the UAE and are in touch with the local authorities," a spokesperson said.