The United Arab Emirates have responded to claims that they detained a British national for wearing a Qatar shirt in their country, saying instead that the charges were for an alleged fake assault claim.
The Guardian reported that Ali Issa Ahmed was being kept in the country for ‘showing sympathy to Qatar’ by wearing their national team’s shirt during a recent Asian Cup match - a competition which the country went on to win.
It has become a criminal offence to show Qatar sympathy in a number of Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, after they cut ties with Qatar following allegations that they support terrorism. Those claims have been denied, but it has still been a criminal offence for the last two years.
The Foreign Office tells potential visitors to the country: "Showing sympathy for Qatar on social media or by any other means of communication is an offence. Offenders could be imprisoned and subject to a substantial fine."
It is currently unclear as to what punishment Ahmed will face from prosecutors in Sharjah. "We are providing assistance to a British man arrested in the UAE, and are in touch with the local authorities," a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Ahmed reportedly went to the police to report actions of harassment and assault towards himself from UAE supporters after seeing him in a Qatar shirt, though his claim was ultimately dismissed and he was charged for wasting police time.
The police, following advice and assessment from doctors, had decided that his injuries were not severe enough to warrant the attention he received and that their time would’ve been better spent elsewhere.
The government has since released the following statement, saying: "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."
Qatar defeated the tournament host United Arab Emirates 4-0 in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup in a convincing victory, before then defeating Japan 3-1 in the final, which took place at Sheikh Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.
Qatar are the controversial hosts of the upcoming 2022 World Cup, which looks set to be moved to winter in order to accomodate the scorching temperatures the country experiences throughout June and July.