Doha, Qatar A Kenyan citizen, who was arrested in Qatar last month and charged with “disseminating disinformation”, was released according to rights organizations, but the charges against him were not dropped.
The 28-year-old Malcolm Bidali, who works as a security guard in the capital Doha for GSS Certis, was arrested from his home on May 5 and ‘investigated’ for violating Qatar’s laws and regulations, ‘Qatar’s government communications office said. (GCO) said last month.
On May 30, the GCO said Bidali was “formally charged with violations related to payments received by a foreign agent for the creation and dissemination of disinformation in the state of Qatar”.
Salem al-Mohannadi, the Qatari owner of GSS Certis, confirmed to Al Jazeera that the 28-year-old had been released.
“He has been released, but I have no further details,” Al-Mohannadi told Al Jazeera on Thursday. “It’s a matter of government now. We are completely behind our country and it is difficult to understand who is working against Qatar. ”
Right groups expressed concern that his arrest could be in retaliation for human rights work.
Bidali blogged under the pseudonym Noah and wrote about labor law issues, including long working hours, wage issues, working conditions and inadequate accommodation, and conditions at his workplace.
Earlier, Migrant-Rights.Org, where Bidali had previously blogged about life as a migrant worker in Qatar, confirmed that Bidali was “released from detention but the charges against him remain”.
The Qatari government declined to comment after Al Jazeera contacted him.
Malcolm Stuur (@noaharticulates) was released from custody but the charges against him remain.
Until his release earlier this week, he received no legal advice.
The charges against him are only aimed at silencing him and all charges regarding his activism must be removed pic.twitter.com/GxbOcJS3qJ
– Migrant rights (@MigrantRights) 2 June 2021
He had earlier said Bidali was receiving ‘legal advice and representation before the court date, which has not yet been determined’.
In a tweet, Migrant-Rights.Org, he claims that ‘until his release earlier this week he did not receive any legal advice’.
Last month, rights groups, including Amnesty International, said in a statement that during a telephone conversation on May 20, Bidali told his mother that he was being held in solitary confinement and had no access to a lawyer.
The International Labor Organization (ILO)’s office in Doha said it was following the matter “closely”.
“The office is unable to comment on the charges, but it is imperative that Mr Bidali receive the necessary process,” the ILO said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera last month.
“The International Trade Union Confederation has offered to support Mr Bidali’s independent legal representation, and the ILO office will continue to monitor the development.”
Just days before his arrest, Bidali, who moved to Qatar in 2016, made an online presentation to civil society groups on the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, giving his experience as a security guard there.
A suspicious link was also sent to him via a tweet, which according to experts was a phishing attack to track down Bidali. The Twitter account has since been deactivated.
It is possible that the information from a click on the link was eventually used by the Qatari government to de-anonymize and arrest him. Sometime after May 25, 2021, Twitter suspended accounts involved in the IP logger campaign @MukhbatQatar.
– Bill Marczak (@billmarczak) 28 May 2021
A spokesman for Migrant-Rights.Org told Al Jazeera last month that the organization contacted Bidali last year and “he would like to help other workers in need, especially during the pandemic”.
In a Twitter post, the organization said: ‘It is critical to emphasize that none of @Noaharticulate’s blog posts and initiatives can be considered’ disinformation ‘. The content of his advocacy has always been nuanced and multilayered, with the sole purpose of improving conditions in Qatar – without harming the country. ”
Update on labor rights activist Malcolm Bidali:
Malcolm is no longer in custody, but faces have apparently caught up with the charges #Kataar related to his legal activism. All charges arising from his human rights work must be dismissed.
– amnestypress (@amnestypress) 2 June 2021
The treatment of migrant workers in Qatar and its record for human rights have been under the spotlight since hosting the football’s FIFA World Cup in 2022.
However, the country has carried out several labor reforms in the run-up to the mega-event taking place in November and December next year.
In August 2020, Qatar Landmark changes announced labor legislation, including the removal of the need for a certificate without objection. Earlier this year, a new law on minimum wages was also introduced.