Exclusive: Qatar plans World Cup fans to avoid prosecution for petty crimes – sources

Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Stadium Preview – Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar – September 1, 2022 General view inside the stadium before the World Cup REUTERS / Mohammed Dabbous

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  • Qatar tries to balance religious traditions with World Cup enthusiasm
  • Embassies warned fans of strict Qatari laws
  • Regulators look to show flexibility in handling minor infractions – source

DOHA (Reuters) – World Cup fans in Qatar who were caught committing petty crimes such as drunkenness in public will escape prosecution under plans by authorities in the conservative Muslim host country, a diplomat and person familiar with the Qatari briefing said. Reuters.

The sources said that while the policing strategy for the competition, which kicks off in less than two months, has yet to be finalized, diplomatic organizers and police from eligible countries have informed that they intend to show flexibility with regard to relatively minor violations.

The signs reflect the delicate balance that Qatar, a small Arab country where many follow the same strict Sunni sect as in neighboring Saudi Arabia, is trying to balance respect for religious traditions and accommodating the bustling exuberance of more than a million visiting football fans. .

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Qatar’s World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, did not respond to a request for comment.

Another Western diplomat said: “The increased leniency satisfies the international community, but it comes with the risk of upsetting conservatives within the country.”

The organizers have not publicly explained their policing style, and several embassies have warned fans that they face punishment for conduct that could be tolerated elsewhere.

“Remember that while you are in Qatar you are subject to local laws,” US diplomat Morgan Cassell said in a YouTube video.

According to Qatar law, freedom of expression is restricted, homosexuality is illegal, and sex outside of marriage is prohibited. Public drunkenness can result in a prison sentence of up to six months and some things considered benign elsewhere such as public displays of affection or wearing revealing clothing can be grounds for arrest.

“Arguing with or insulting others in public may lead to arrest. Activities such as protests, religious proselytizing, advocating atheism, and criticism of the government of Qatar or the Islamic religion may take place here. This also applies to your social media posts,” Cassell said.

relax laws

But organizers already intend to relax strict laws in Qatar that limit the public sale of alcohol, and will allow beer to be served near stadiums a few hours before matches kick off. Read more

Unofficially, they also told police from European countries that qualified for the tournament and some diplomats in Doha to expect the police to show flexibility in applying other laws, such as drunkenness or general disorder.

“Minimal offenses will not result in a fine or arrest, but the police will be directed to the person and asked to comply… A person who removes his shirt in public will be required to put on a T-shirt,” said the person familiar with the country briefings of a number of European policemen who have sent officers To Qatar: “There is a kind of tolerance.”

While the Qatari authorities have not confirmed this approach, special legislation that went into effect during the tournament gives Qatar’s World Cup security chief – known as the Golden Leader – significant leeway in addressing violations of Qatari laws.

It says that the commander, in coordination with the authorities, can take decisions, including how to deal with “acts that violate the provisions of the laws in force in the country.”

World Cup organizers told diplomats at a press briefing a few months ago that police plan to take tougher measures when the safety of people or property is at risk.

Fans who commit such acts, such as using torches or fireworks that can cause damage, or participating in a fight – even in the absence of serious injuries – can face fines and the revocation of their ‘Hayya’ card, the Qatar entry permit said. Source The access to the stadiums.

It was not clear if fans who lost their Life Card would be given a deadline to leave the country, or be detained for deportation.

Security is just one challenge facing Qatar, the first country in the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup and the youngest country to do so. With a population of less than 3 million, it will host an influx of 1.2 million fans – an unprecedented challenge for the Arab Gulf state. Read more

To aid in police efforts, organizers have called on each eligible country to send at least four police officers to be on the ground in Qatar during the World Cup, said the source familiar with the policing plans.

They will be based in the Ministry of Interior’s command center and around the capital, Doha, to advise their Qatari counterparts.

said Mark Roberts, chief of Cheshire Police and Britain’s Football Command.

(This story has been paraphrased to fix a typo in “Legacy” in paragraph 4)

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Reporting and writing by Andrew Mills; Editing by Dominic Evans and William McLean

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.