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Monday, January 24, 2022

Detained security guard charged with ‘working for foreign agent’


Security guard and labour rights activist Malcolm Bidali was taken into custody and placed under investigation on May 5.

A security guard and human rights activist who was detained in Qatar earlier this month has been charged with working for a foreign agent, the Government Communications Office [GCO] said in a statement on Saturday.

Malcolm Bidali, who was arrested on May 5, has now been referred to the Qatar Public Prosecution for offences related to receiving payments from a foreign agent.

“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,” a GCO statement read.

The decision was made following a thorough investigation by authorities, the statement added, confirming the Kenyan national will be receiving legal advice and representation ahead of the court date, which has yet to be set.

Read also: Rights groups urge Qatar to provide information on detained security guard

A source has told Doha News that the UN’s International Labour Organisation Project Office for the State of Qatar has met with the security guard and will be assigning a lawyer to represent him in the lead up to the court date.

Doha News has also learned that the detained activist met with the Kenyan ambassador to Doha who is aware of the case. Bidali has also been in contact with his mother since his arrest.

In early May, Bidali was taken into custody and placed under investigation for “violating Qatar’s security laws and regulations”, though the alleged breaches were not specified at the time of his arrest, leading to concerned statement from activists and leading rights groups.

Global concerns

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and GCC-based advocacy organisation Migrant-Rights.org penned a joint letter to say they had not heard from Bidali since he was taken from his company accommodation for questioning by the authorities.

Bidali, known by his pen name “Noah”, is a vocal migrants rights advocate who gained popularity for blogging about violations he witnessed in Qatar.

His Instagram page ‘Noaharticulates’ regularly addresses issues he faced as a security guard working in the affluent Msheireb Downtown area.

Earlier this month, some 240 Qatar Foundation (QF) students, alumni, faculty and staff signed a letter addressed to CEO and chairperson of QF, Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani with concerns over his arrest, given the lack of information given to the public following his sudden arrest.

“In written communications to media outlets such as The Guardian and The Independent, officials from the Government Communications Office have cited violations of security regulations as the cause of his arrest,” said the letter.

“Importantly, his incommunicado status renders him unable to access any legal representation-a right that is protected under Qatari law. We fear that this event not only threatens to reverse the steps the Qatari government has taken in advancing the rights of migrant workers, but also, as members of the Qatar Foundation community, of the Foundation’s commitment to nurturing a compassionate and just society,” added the letter.

Shortly after, Sheikha Hind responded to the concerns in a statement published online. 

“I am aware of the detention of Mr. Bidali and I am following the case. I have inquired with the appropriate authorities for an update on the situation, and have been informed that he is well and is being afforded his rights according to Qatar’s laws. We have also been in contact with the Government Communications Office and requested that regular updates on the status of the investigation are provided,” said Sheikha Hind in her response.

Read also: QF’s Sheikha Hind responds to student letter on detained security guard.

“I trust that the authorities are undergoing the correct procedures to complete their investigation, after which point we will have a clearer picture of what has happened. I will continue to actively engage with the relevant authorities on this matter,” her response letter added.

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