British citizen Ali Issa Ahmad has been arrested in the UAE for wearing a Qatar national football team shirt, and potentially faces a 15 year jail term and a fine of over Dh500,000.
Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling issued the following statement on the case:
“Ali is a young football fan from the UK who was on holiday in the UAE and decided to attend a match during the Asian Cup between Iraq and Qatar. Reportedly, Ali was detained by police after the match because he was wearing a Qatar team shirt, and he was allegedly beaten by the police on the way to the station. When he reported this abuse to officers at the station, he was immediately charged with lying about UAE security forces.
“It is outrageous that the UAE would politicise football to the point that a foreign fan with no political or ideological allegiances in the ongoing regional dispute would be arrested for literally nothing more than wearing a shirt for the ‘wrong’ team. The police have apparently escalated the charge against Ali from ‘showing sympathy for Qatar’ to now ‘making false allegations against UAE security officials’; which could potentially be treated as an act of sedition and thus a national security crime. Both the initial arrest and the escalation of charges are clearly politically motivated acts by the police; and Ali is being victimised merely to send a signal to Qatar in the run-up to the World Cup. This is a gross violation of his rights, and the only signal it sends to the international community is that the UAE is an unsafe destination.
“Fast on the heels of the Matthew Hedges case; where a British PhD student was charged with espionage for doing doctoral research, and sentenced to life imprisonment; the UAE appears to place a higher value on its dispute with Qatar than on its good relations with Great Britain.
“I urge Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt to reiterate the strong stance he took during the Hedges case, to demand the immediate release of Ali Issa Ahmad, and to oblige the UAE to guarantee the safety of British citizens in the UAE from wrongful arrest. Ali did not commit a true crime, he brought his tourism money to the Emirates, and he went to a football game; for that, the UAE will potentially punish him with a hefty fine and a lengthy imprisonment.
“Detained in Dubai has repeatedly requested the FCO increase its travel warnings to British citizens who are considering visiting the UAE, and I repeat that request now. Foreigners are more likely to be arrested in the Emirates than in any other destination, and once entangled in the legal system, there is a high probability of suffering human rights abuses. For this reason, the High Court of England has refused extradition to the UAE, yet tourists continue to be largely unaware of the dangers.”
Radha Stirling, is founder and CEO of UK / USA based legal and human rights organisation Detained in Dubai, Expert Witness and respected analyst of Middle East Policy.
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