Thousands of England fans have begun arriving in Qatar ahead of the Three Lions’ opening World Cup match against Iran on Monday. But supporters have been reminded laws in the Gulf state are a lot different to those at home.
And there are warnings that if they break Qatari laws they could be arrested and locked up for long periods. The authorities will be aware thousands of westerners will be in their country for the World Cup and not used to their traditions, and it’s possible they may take a more lenient approach to what they deem to be law-breaking during this period.
But that’s far from guaranteed. Homosexuality and drinking alcohol is illegal in Qatar. Swearing and taking pictures could also land fans in trouble.
LGBT+ supporters have been assured it’s safe for them to travel to the World Cup but there remain concerns over their safety. Drinking will be allowed in fan parks but alcohol will not be available elsewhere.
Brits have previously been arrested and detained in Qatar for being drunk in public and the British Government’s Foreign Office have warned of the risks. It says: “It is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. British nationals have been detained under this law, usually when they have come to the attention of the police on a related matter, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour.
“For example, drinking in a public place could result in a prison sentence of up to six months and/or a fine up to QAR3,000 (£700).”
Swearing and making “rude gestures” are considered “obscene acts” for which someone could be jailed or deported. Visitors are warned to “take particular care” when dealing with the police and other officials.
Brits have also been told they should be careful when filming or taking pictures of people, religious, military or construction sites around Qatar. Some visitors attempting to film or photograph in “sensitive areas” have been arrested.
If an England fan is arrested in Qatar, authorities can detain them for up to 24 hours before referring the case to the Public Prosecutor. The Prosecutor may order the suspect to be released, remanded in custody to await trial, held in pre-trial detention pending investigation or released on bail.
On arrival at the police station, money, jewellery, phones and other personal items will be confiscated. Detainees will “normally” be allowed to make a phonecall to a lawyer, the British Embassy or a family member. A statement will be taken by the police.
The state security service can arrest and detain suspects for up to 30 days without referring them to the Public Prosecutor. Depending on the circumstances, the person arrested could find themselves detained for up to six months without being charged but these should be the most extreme cases.
Anyone remanded in custody is likely to be taken to Doha Central Prison. Upon arrival, inmates will be “subjected to an intimate body search” and men may have their heads shaved.
Any fans transported from the police station to the courts or to Central Prison may be “shackled in handcuffs and leg chains”, the Foreign Office says. If the person arrested is charged they will normally go on trial within a month.
It’s possible they will be given bail but not guaranteed. They may be banned from travelling until the case is concluded.
If they are found guilty of an offence, such as being drunk and disorderly, lengthy sentences are not uncommon. Although most sentences last up to six months.