The family of a gay man who was arrested in Qatar say that he was “trapped” by a fake Grindr account and that he urgently needs access to HIV medicine or his health could collapse.

Manuel Guerrero Aviña, who has dual Mexican-British citizenship, was arrested in February after arranging to meet a man named “Gio” on the dating app. When he showed up to the meeting in his apartment lobby, Aviña was instead confronted by police officers.

“The Qatari police created a fake profile on Grindr to target [him],” Aviña’s brother Enrique said. “They trapped him. It is a homophobic state.” Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.

Qatari police say they found the 44-year-old in possession of methamphetamine, and that he was arrested under the country’s drug laws.

“The arrest in question and subsequent investigation are related solely to the possession and distribution of illegal substances, with no involvement of other factors,” a Qatari official told the Guardian. They claim to have become aware of Aviña’s sexuality after his arrest.

Enrique said his brother was not a drug user, was made to sign documents in Arabic that he did not understand and was pressed into saying the drugs were his. He said the authorities also tried to pressure Aviña’ into naming other gay men. “Why were they interrogating him about gay men if he was being held on a drugs charge?”

Amnesty International has described Aviña’’s experience in detention as “nothing short of horrific”. A rally to show support for Aviña and raise awareness of his case is planned outside the Foreign Office in London this afternoon.

Enrique said that blood tests taken while his brother was being held in February showed the HIV virus was present – a direct result of not being able to access his medication. He said the antiretroviral (ARV) medication his brother needs to treat his HIV is not routinely available in Qatar, and Aviña relied on getting the medication abroad as part of his job as a flight attendant for Qatar Airways.

His only way of accessing the medication now is if Enrique gives it to the Qatari authorities. “I handed [it] over, but [it] never reached my brother,” Enrique said. The Qatari authorities did not answer questions from the Guardian about the provision of HIV medicine within the country.

The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a statement, which said they had “deep concerns” about the reportedly discriminatory motives of the alleged arrest, detention, and ill-treatment of Aviña, including his reported denial of access to lifesaving ARV medications.

After spending 44 days in prison, Aviña was released to await trial in June. Enrique has been told his brother faces a sentence of anything between six months to three years if found guilty. “I fear his health will collapse if he cannot get access to his medication in prison.”

Amnesty International has raised concerns about whether Aviña was targeted through a dating app, and whether due process was followed in his case. Dana Ahmed, who is leading the case for Amnesty International, said: “Manuel repeatedly asked for a lawyer during his time in detention but did not have an opportunity to take legal advice for more than a month after his detention.

“He had no access to any documents relating to his case for more than two months following his arrest and only days before his first trial session, violating his right to a genuine opportunity to prepare and present his defence.

Ahmed said Amnesty fears Aviña was coerced in his interrogation to provide the authorities with information that they could use to pursue a crackdown on LGBTQ+ individuals in Qatar. “Why else would security officials force Manuel to unlock his phone and identify members of the LGBTQ+ community during his interrogation?” Ahmed said.

Human Rights Watch released a report last year into the use of digital entrapment through dating apps to target gay citizens in the Middle East. “The criminalisation of same-sex conduct emboldens digital targeting, quells LGBT expression online and offline, and serves as the basis for prosecutions of LGBT people,” the report said.



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