Qatar charges migrant activist with taking payment to spread disinformation

by Reuters
Sunday, 30 May 2021 07:23 GMT

A general view shows the Lusail stadium which is under construction for the upcoming 2022 Fifa soccer World Cup during a stadium tour in Doha, Qatar, December 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Image Caption and Rights Information

Bidali had recently given a presentation to a large group of civil society organisations and trade unions about his experience working in Qatar

(Adds NHRC statement)

DUBAI, May 30 (Reuters) - Qatar's public prosecution has charged a Kenyan man who has written about migrant rights in the Gulf Arab state with receiving payment to spread disinformation, the government's communication office (GCO) said on Saturday.

Malcolm Bidali, who had been writing under a pseudonym, was arrested on May 5 for violating Qatar's security laws, according to a Qatari official. Rights groups have voiced concern that his detention may be in reprisal for human rights work.

"Mr Bidali has been formally charged with offences related to payments received by a foreign agent for the creation and distribution of disinformation within the State of Qatar," the GCO said in a statement, without elaborating.

It said his case was transferred to the Public Prosecution after a thorough investigation and that Bidali was "receiving legal advice and representation ahead of the court date, which has not yet been set".

Rights groups including Amnesty International said in a statement on Friday that Bidali, a security guard and blogger, told his mother in a May 20 phone call that he was being held in solitary confinement and had no access to a lawyer.

Qatar's official National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) said authorities gave unrestricted access to Bidali and "he was being treated properly".

NHRC added staff from the Kenyan Embassy visited him and he had contacts with his family and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Bidali had a week before his arrest given a presentation to a large group of civil society organisations and trade unions about his experience working in Qatar, according to an earlier statement by Amnesty, Migrant-Rights.org, Human Rights Watch, FairSquare and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Qatar's human rights record has been in the spotlight as it prepares to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, especially over migrants' living and working conditions.

Doha has introduced labour reforms that aimed to address some concerns. (Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Mark Potter and Jason Neely)