Kenyan guard who wrote on Qatar abuses fined, leaves country

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Kenyan security guard who wrote compelling dispatches under a pseudonym about the challenges of living as a low-wage worker in Qatar and advocated for their rights was freed from his monthslong detention and left the Gulf Arab country after paying a fine, activists said Thursday.

Malcolm Bidali, 28, faced a $6,800 fine and had his mobile phone and social media accounts seized by Qatari authorities, rights groups said in a statement. A migrant rights group covered the fine costs.

Qatari authorities convicted Bidali of sharing “fake news,” showing the limits of expression in the Gulf Arab country that will host the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. The rights group say Bidali’s conviction was “handed down without him ever having been formally charged, brought before a court or even informed of the nature of the criminal charges he was facing.”

“While we are relieved that Malcolm Bidali’s ordeal is over and he has finally been able to leave Qatar, he should never have been detained in the first place,” the groups said. “It has been clear all along that he was being penalized for his human rights activism, and this unjust ‘conviction’ for spreading ‘false information’ only confirms that.”

The Qatari government did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Qatar is home to the state-funded Al Jazeera satellite news network. However, expression in the country remains tightly controlled.

Analysts also say Bidali found himself targeted by a phishing attack that could have revealed his location just before his arrest.