A Kenyan security guard and blogger who was detained in Qatar earlier this month has been charged with working for a foreign agent to spread disinformation, the Government Communications Office [GCO] said in a statement on Saturday.
Malcolm Bidali, who was arrested on May 05 for violating Qatar’s security laws, has now been referred to the Qatar Public Prosecution for offences related to receiving payments from a foreign agent.
Rights groups have voiced concern that his detention may be in reprisal for human rights work.
Bidali, known by his pen name “Noah”, is a vocal migrant’s rights advocate who gained popularity for blogging about violations he witnessed in Qatar.
“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.
The GCO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)