Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

British football fan arrested for misleading UAE police

Official denies false reports claiming he was arrested for supporting Qatar

Fans hold up signs to support Qatar during the AFC Asian Cup final against Japan at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National
Fans hold up signs to support Qatar during the AFC Asian Cup final against Japan at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

A British-Sudanese man who claimed he had been attacked in the UAE for supporting Qatar during the AFC Asian Cup has been arrested for making a false police report.

Ali Essa Ahmed, 26, filed a police report at a Sharjah station last month, claiming he had been harassed and beaten up by UAE football fans for supporting Qatar and wearing their team shirt.

Police took Mr Ahmed, a dual citizen, to a hospital to be examined for signs of abuse — as is customary in cases of assault in the UAE.

A medical report revealed that his injuries were inconsistent with the account of events he gave to police, and that his wounds were self-inflicted.

On January 24, Mr Ahmed was charged with making false statements and wasting police time by filing a false report — an illegal act.

His case was picked up by international media who claimed Mr Ahmed was arrested for wearing a Qatar shirt.

On Tuesday, the UAE Embassy in the UK denied the claims, saying in a statement that he was "categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt."

The statement said Mr Ahmed had admitted to filing a false report and will now stand trial. Under UAE law, making a false report to judicial or administrative authorities incidents carries a sentence of not more than six months in jail and a fine of no less than Dh3,000.

“We are in touch with the UK embassy and due process has been followed," a UAE official said. "Mr Ahmad speaks Arabic and fully understands the situation he has put himself in.

"He was categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt. This is instead an instance of a person seeking media attention and wasting police time."

During the AFC Asian Cup, fans were seen waving the Qatari flag and supporting Qatar without any instances of arrests.

Judge Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, head of the Dubai Civil Court and former head of the city's criminal courts, stressed "there is no law against supporting a football team", publicly or otherwise.

"During the Asian Cup there were thousands attending and cheering for the Qatari team, waving Qatar flag and wearing their national team shirt," he said.

There were no reports of violence between fans involving Qatar or any other team," he said.

"If anyone, regardless of their nationality, was assaulted, then the accused - also regardless of their nationality - will be punished."

Updated: February 7, 2019 02:16 PM

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