Two British human rights activists who were arrested more than a week ago have been released from police custody, the British embassy in Qatar has confirmed to Doha News.
The two men – 52-year-old Krishna Upadhyaya and 36-year-old Ghimire Gundev – had lost contact with their employer and relatives last Sunday and were declared missing days later.
Over the weekend, Qatar authorities confirmed the two had been arrested for violating the country’s laws, but did not elaborate on the reasons for the detention.
Beyond confirming the release of the duo, a spokesperson for UK embassy was unable to comment further on the case.
But Amnesty International researcher Drewery Dyke told Doha News that he spoke with Upadhyaya’s UK-based wife by phone yesterday around midnight.
He said she told him that her spouse and his colleague had been released and were scheduled to go to the police station today to collect their recording equipment.
“It seems that cooler heads have prevailed,” Dyke said.
On Twitter, relatives and supporters have posted messages celebrating the men’s release:
— Shreya Paudel (@Shreya_Paudel) September 8, 2014
And in a Facebook post that went up last night, Upadhyaya said he and Gundev would be leaving Qatar tomorrow:
“Just released, will fly in two days time! We do not have mobile yet, so wait for our calls!”
The Qatar government has not yet issued an update on the case.
Doha News was unable to immediately reach the employer of the two men, Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), on Tuesday morning.
Upadhyaya and Gundev, who are of Nepali descent, arrived in Qatar in late August to investigate the conditions of Nepali migrant workers living here for an upcoming report.
According to GNRD, the men had complained of being followed by plainclothes police officers and spent most of their time working inside the Nepali embassy out of fear for their safety.
The men checked out of their hotel on Aug. 31, but never boarded their flight out of the country.
Six days later, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that two British nationals had been arrested but gave no reason for their detention, saying only that they had “violat(ed) the provisions of the laws of the State of Qatar.”
That same day, GNRD posted a message from Upadhyaya to his family on its website, as conveyed by a British embassy official who visited the pair:
“I am well, I have been well looked after and I will be home soon. We have been arrested due to problems with our paperwork.”
Dyke said on Tuesday that he still did not understand how paperwork problems could lead to an extended detention of the two men.
“I hope the real truth of the matter comes out,” he said.
Scrutiny on employer
Foreign journalists and human rights activists regularly come to Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, to investigate and report on abuses of migrant workers.
Few ever encounter problems with local authorities, which makes the case of Gundev and Upadhyaya – a respected human rights researcher – so rare.
This has led some to question if the men were targeted because of their employer. GNRD appears to have ties to the UAE, which is involved in a diplomatic dispute with Qatar.
While the Scandinavian charity said it does not receive any funding from the UAE government, one of its primary sponsors is a UAE consulting company run by a man with the same name as GNRD’s president.
There are no online records of the other corporate backers that GNRD lists on its website.
The charity, which appears to have an artificially inflated number of social media followers, also raised eyebrows last year when it ranked the UAE as being one of the top countries in the world for its human rights record – a dramatically different conclusion than other organizations that prepare similar rankings.