Doha, qatar – A Kenyan national who was arrested in Qatar last month and accused of “spreading disinformation” has been released but the charges against him have not been dropped, rights groups say.
Malcolm Bidali, 28, who works as a security guard in the capital Doha for GSS Certis, was arrested at his home on May 5 and “placed under investigation for violating Qatar’s security laws and regulations,” Government of Qatar (GCO) said last month.
On May 30, the GCO said that Bidali was “formally charged with offenses relating to payments received by a foreign agent for the creation and dissemination of disinformation within the State of Qatar.”
Salem al-Mohannadi, the Qatari owner of GSS Certis, confirmed to Al Jazeera that the 28-year-old has been released.
“He was released but I don’t have more details,” al-Mohannadi told Al Jazeera on Thursday. “It’s a government affair now. We are totally behind our country and it is difficult to understand who is working against Qatar. “
Human rights groups have expressed concern that his arrest may be in retaliation for human rights work.
Blogging under the pseudonym Noah, Bidali wrote about labor rights issues, including long working hours, wage issues, working conditions, and inadequate housing and conditions in his workplace.
Previously, Migrant-Rights.Org, where Bidali used to blog about the life of a migrant worker in Qatar, had confirmed that Bidali had been “released from detention but the charges against him remain”.
The Qatari government declined to comment when contacted by Al Jazeera.
Malcolm Bidali (@noaharticle) was released but the charges against him remain.
Until his release earlier this week, he had not received any legal advice.
The charges against him are intended only to silence him and all charges relating to his activism must be dropped. pic.twitter.com/GxbOcJS3qJ
– Migrant rights (@MigrantRights) June 2, 2021
He had previously said that Bidali was “receiving legal advice and representation ahead of the court date, which has yet to be set.”
In a tweet, Migrant-Rights.Org claimed that “until his release earlier this week he had not received any legal advice.”
Last month, rights groups including Amnesty International said in a statement that Bidali told his mother in a phone call on May 20 that he was being held in solitary confinement and had no access to a lawyer.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) office in Doha said it was following the case “closely”.
“The Office is unable to comment on the charges, but it is essential that Mr. Bidali be given due 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 developments.”
Days before his arrest, Bidali, who moved to Qatar in 2016, made an online presentation to civil society groups on the situation of migrant workers in Qatar, recounting his experience working as a security guard over there.
He was also sent a suspicious link via a tweet which some experts said was a phishing attack to track down Bidali. The Twitter account has since been deactivated.
It is possible that the information gleaned by clicking on the link was ultimately used by the Qatari government to de-anonymize and arrest him. Sometime after May 25, 2021, Twitter suspended accounts involved in the IP Loggers campaign, including @MukhbatQatar.
– Bill Marczak (@billmarczak) May 28, 2021
A spokesperson for Migrant-Rights.Org told Al Jazeera last month that the organization connected to Bidali last year and “was keen to help other workers in distress, especially during the pandemic “.
In a Twitter post, the organization said: “It is essential to stress that none of the articles and initiatives on the @Noaharticulates blog can be considered ‘disinformation’. The content of his plea has always been nuanced and on several levels, with the sole aim of improving conditions in Qatar – not to slander the country. “
Update on labor rights activist Malcolm Bidali:
Malcolm is no longer in custody, but faces seemingly trumped up charges in #Qatar linked to its legitimate activism. All charges arising from his human rights work must be dropped.
– amnestypress (@amnestypress) June 2, 2021
Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers and its human rights record have been in the spotlight since it received the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
However, the country has carried out several labor reforms ahead of the mega event which will take place in November and December of next year.
In August 2020, Qatar announced significant changes to labor laws, including removing the need for a no-objection certificate. Earlier this year, a new minimum wage law was also introduced.