Man arrested for Qatar football shirt launches legal claim
A football fan arrested in the UAE allegedly for wearing a Qatar shirt has launched a legal challenge against the country, according to media reports on Friday.
Ali Issa Ahmed, a security guard from Wolverhampton, told The Guardian he was arrested, interrogated and detained after watching an Asian Cup football match in Abu Dhabi in January.
He said that during his detention he was beaten, electrocuted, cut, burned and repeatedly questioned about why he was wearing a Qatar shirt.
The UAE, which hosted the football tournament, is one of four Arab countries boycotting Doha over political differences. The country has outlawed all "expression of sympathy" for Qatar and those convicted of the offence can face up to 15 years in prison.
Ahmad is hoping to bring a human rights claim, funded by a CrowdJustice campaign, against the UAE government for the physical harm he has suffered.
"I have suffered greatly both physically and mentally," reads his campaign page. "This whole nightmare began because I was wearing a Qatar shirt at an internationally-recognised sporting event".
His lawyers are appealing to the UK foreign office to launch a full investigation and have written to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt directly.
His lawyer Rodney Dixon QC of Temple Garden Chambers said: "The torture and abuse that Ali suffered was completely unjustified and gratuitous. It is shocking that a football fan can be treated in this way in UAE just for supporting a team at an international tournament."
The UAE has denied Ahmad's claims, saying his injuries were self-inflicted. "He was categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt. This is instead an instance of a person seeking media attention and wasting police time," a UAE embassy official said in a previous statement.
"I must challenge their lies. I have the truth, I have the scars. I am suffering a lot from what they did to me. They cannot be allowed to keep doing this to people," Ahmad told The Guardian.
The Arsenal fan attended the second-round match between Qatar and Iraq on 22 January donning a Qatar team jersey and was later arrested by UAE security forces.
The UAE claims the 26-year-old, who also holds a Sudanese citizenship, complained to police about abuse by supporters of the Emirati team at the tournament. In their account, a hospital visit then pointed to the injuries being self-inflicted.
The UAE claim Ahmad later admitted to making false statements and wasting police time.
Ahmad told The Guardian he was forced to sign a confession saying he was guilty of wasting police time.
Ahmad has a series of knife wounds in his arm, injuries to his chest and a stab wound to his side. He said he had a tooth knocked out when a security official punched him in the face.
He said his interrogation involved being deprived of sleep, food and water. He was transferred to a police cell, and held there until 12 February, where he said he was stabbed in the side, perhaps by another prisoner.
International rights group Human Rights Watch said the arrest was symbolic of the country's intolerance.
"It's beyond ludicrous that the UAE has arrested this young British man merely because he work a Qatar soccer jersey; it would be laughable it if weren't for the fact that this detention is emblematic of the UAE's intolerance for any expression of opinion they don't like, including cheering for a Qatari team," director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson told The New Arab.
The Qatari team defied all the odds to win the tournament, despite abuse from UAE fans and none of its fans being allowed to attend their games because of the blockade.
UAE authorities even attempted to have the team disqualified after they trashed the homeside 4-0 in the semi-finals in a game that saw shoes and bottles thrown at the Qatari players.
Rights groups have long accused the Gulf state of carrying out systematic human rights violations.