Qatar prosecutors have accused Kenyan labor activist Malcolm Bidali, arrested earlier this month, of spreading a disinformation campaign in the Persian Gulf country after several humanitarian NGOs reported he was virtually out of touch and missing.
In response, the Qatar Government Communications Bureau (GCO) has announced that the Bidali case has been referred to prosecutor and officially charged.
“Mr. Bidali has been formally charged with crimes related to payments received by a foreign agent for creating and disseminating disinformation in the state of Qatar,” the office said.
“Mr Badali will be advised and legally represented prior to the process that has not yet been established,” added the agency, without giving any further details.
Last Saturday, a group of various NGOs, including Amnesty International, asked the government of Qatar to reveal the whereabouts of 28-year-old Bidali, who was allegedly detained three weeks ago. The activist himself informed his mother on the 20th of this month that he was being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and that he would not have access to a lawyer.
“Migrant-Rights.org, FairSquare, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Business Human Rights Resource Center urge the Qatari authorities to immediately release Mr. Bidali, who appears to have been detained for peacefully exercising his human rights,” according to one of the Qatari authorities statement collected on the Amnesty website.
Qatari authorities admitted that Bidali was in their custody on May 12, but declined to say where he was being held or why. “Until Malcolm Bidali’s whereabouts are discovered and he is brought to trial for identifiable charges or released, his detention will continue to constitute an enforced disappearance,” the organizations said.
The activist is active on social networks, where he accuses Qatar of violating workers’ rights under the pseudonym. Exactly one suspected Qatari computer agent would have used a trap message on Twitter to determine his whereabouts using a technique known as phishing, with a link to a fake website that sought to determine his exact location.