UK urges investigation into UAE arrest of British football fan for wearing Qatar shirt

UK urges investigation into UAE arrest of British football fan for wearing Qatar shirt
British citizen Ali Issa Ahmad was arrested by UAE security forces because he wore a Qatar football shirt. He says he was beaten, electrocuted, cut, and burned during his detention.
3 min read
08 May, 2019
The Briton was arrested for wearing a Qatar team jersey in the UAE [Getty]

The UK government will call for an investigation into the detention of a British citizen in the UAE earlier this year for wearing a Qatar football shirt, in a case that led to outrage in the country.

Ali Issa Ahmad was arrested by UAE security forces in Abu Dhabi after the second-round match of the Asian Cup between Qatar and Iraq on 22 January because he wore a Qatar team jersey.

He attended the match while on holiday in the UAE and said he didn't know that wearing a Qatar shirt was punishable by imprisonment or a fine.

The UAE, which hosted the Asian Cup 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, 26, a security guard from Wolverhampton, said that during his detention he was beaten, electrocuted, cut, burned and repeatedly questioned about why he was wearing a Qatar shirt.

Last month he sought to bring a human rights claim, funded by a CrowdJustice campaign, against the UAE government for the physical harm he has suffered.

Ahmad and his lawyer, Rodney Dixon QC, attended a meeting with the Foreign Office on Tuesday to call on them to press the UAE to investigate his mistreatment.

His lawyer said the FCO had agreed to call on the UAE to investigate his case.

"I don't know how I can get justice for what happened to me but if I can I will do it," Ahmad said, according to The Guardian.

"I'm still very traumatised by what happened to me in UAE. I'm receiving counselling and am struggling to sleep."

Ahmad's lawyer said he welcomed the FCO's decision to ask the UAE to investigate Ahmad's detention and mistreatment.

The announcement comes at a sensitive time in UK-UAE relations following the case of British academic Matthew Hedges, who was detained in May last year while researching the UAE's foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

Hedges was held in solitary confinement for months, accused of being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent, and sentenced to life in prison on 21 November.

Five days later he was pardoned by the UAE following international uproar over his case.

On Tuesday, the FCO launched an investigation into how the department handled the case of Matthew Hedges after the academic and his wife Daniela Tejada submitted a legal complaint alleging the British government did not do enough to affect his release.

They also said the FCO is still letting them down by failing to help Hedges clear his name.

Hedges is still a convicted spy in the UAE, although he was able to walk free.

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