A Briton has been arrested and detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for showing support for Qatar at a soccer tournament. Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that the man, named Ali Issa Ahmed, was held after being accused of showing sympathy to Qatar after wearing a shirt of their national soccer team to an Asian Cup match between Qatar and Iraq on Jan. 22 in the Gulf Arab state.
Showing sympathy towards Qatar has been a criminal offence in the UAE since June 2017 when it, along with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, cut ties with Qatar over allegations it supports terrorism. Doha, which announced last month it was quitting the Saudi-dominated OPEC oil cartel, vociferously denies the allegations, but the dispute has dragged on. The Qatari government has also blasted the blockade as unjustified and a violation of international law.
UAE dismissed reports, saying the British man had been charged for making false assault claims to police. The UAE government said in a statement that Ahmed, who they said also has Sudanese citizenship, had gone to a police station in the UAE emirate of Sharjah to complain that he had been harassed and assaulted by supporters of the UAE national side at the tournament. "The police took him to hospital where a doctor who examined him concluded that his injuries were inconsistent with his account of events and appeared to be self-inflicted," the government said. It said Ahmed had later admitted to making false statements and wasting police time after being charged on Jan. 24 and will now be processed through UAE courts. It was not immediately clear what punishment Ahmed could face if found guilty.