British football fan ‘beaten and starved in UAE after arrest for wearing Qatar shirt’

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A British football fan who claims he was detained in the United Arab Emirates for wearing a Qatar shirt has told Sky News he was left to starve in prison after being beaten up.

Ali Issa Ahmad was allegedly arrested for wearing the t-shirt after going to watch an Asian Cup tie between Qatar and Iraq last month.

The 26-year-old from Wolverhampton is now warning other football supporters to “be careful” if they are considering travelling to the UAE.

In an interview with Sky’s Tom Parmenter following his return to the UK, Mr Ahmad said: “I was beaten. I was terrified. I couldn’t handle it.

“They didn’t allow me to sleep for three days.

“They didn’t even allow me to eat or drink. It was unbelievable to be honest.

“I don’t know why they did that because I was only wearing a t-shirt for Qatar football.

“In their law, you could face prison for 15 years for doing that. That’s what they said to me.

“I was treated very badly to be honest.”

Mr Ahmad said four “intelligence officials” had followed him to his car after the football match ended and told him to hand over his t-shirt.

After questioning why they wanted the item of clothing, he gave it to them but was followed again as he travelled from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.

The next day, he said was still being tracked so he changed hotels – but he was followed once again.

“It was quite scary to be honest,” Mr Ahmad said.

” I don’t know why those guys were doing it. It was a very difficult time.”

UAE officials have denied Mr Ahmad was detained for wearing the garment and insisted he had been charged after making false assault allegations to officers.

The UAE embassy in London said the dual British-Sudanese national had presented himself to a police station where he claimed he had been harassed and beaten up by UAE national football fans for cheering the Qatar team.

The embassy claimed he had been assessed at a hospital where a doctor concluded his injuries “appeared to be self-inflicted”.

Mr Ahmad insisted “that wasn’t the case” and challenged the UAE authorities to provide CCTV evidence to back up their claims.

He said he was unaware that Qatar shirts were banned in the UAE and said football fans “had to be careful”.

“It’s unbelievable that wearing a t-shirt is a crime,” he said.

“It’s freedom of support and freedom of speech.”

Mr Ahmad added that he was “relieved” to be released and had followed Qatar’s football team for many years, watching the team at the London 2012 Olympics.

In its advice for visitors to the UAE, the Foreign Office warns that anyone “showing sympathy for Qatar on social media or by any other means of communication could be jailed or handed a ‘substantial’ fine”.

The laws were introduced after the UAE joined Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt in cutting ties with Qatar in 2017 over allegations the oil-rich state supports Islamic extremists. Doha denies the charges.

(c) Sky News 2019: British football fan ‘beaten and starved in UAE after arrest for wearing Qatar shirt’

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