Qatar charges outspoken Kenyan rights activist with spreading disinformation
Qatar has charged an outspoken Kenyan rights activist with taking "foreign" money to spread disinformation after holding him without charge in solitary confinement for nearly three weeks.
Earlier this month, Malcolm Bidali was arrested from his home in Qatar and held in an undisclosed location.
Writing under the pen-name Noah, Bidali would write for Migrantrights.org (MR) and shed light on the restrictions and realities faced by workers in Qatar as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup.
His mother, Maggie Turner, also confirmed to Middle East Eye that he has received no access to legal representation during his detention and has met only with representatives from the Kenyan embassy.
Migrantrights.org on Saturday night condemned the charges against Bidali and said it proved that he was arrested because of his advocacy.
"While further details have not been released, it seems clear these charges are directly linked to his blog posts and advocacy, despite earlier reassurances from Qatari authorities that his arrest was unrelated to his activism," MR said in a tweet.
"It's critical to underscore that none of @Noaharticuluates blog posts and initiatives can be considered 'disinformation'. The content of his advocacy was always nuanced and multi-layered, with the sole intent of improving conditions in Qatar - not maligning the country."
A Qatar government spokesperson on Saturday confirmed that Bidali would be charged with spreading disinformation.
"Following a thorough investigation by the authorities, the case of Mr Malcolm Bidali has been transferred to Qatar Public Prosecution. 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 spokesperson said in a statement.
"Mr Badali is receiving legal advice and representation ahead of the court date, which has not yet been set."
Middle East Eye could not independently verify if Bidali has access to legal representation.
A day before Qatar confirmed the charges against Bidali, a coalition of human rights groups criticised the gas-rich county for placing him in solitary confinement and detaining him indefinitely.
The Kenyan came to Qatar nearly three years ago, where he worked as a security guard in Doha.
Before his arrest, Bidali appeared at a video conference with other civil society and trade union groups describing the reality faced by many workers in Qatar.
He also received a suspicious URL before his arrest on social media that Amnesty on Friday confirmed could have been used to track his whereabouts and record his IP address.
The rights group, however, could not confirm if Qatar had sent the suspicious link.