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Qatar: authorities must quash conviction of British-Mexican man after grossly unfair trial

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Manuel Aviña appears to be victim of false drugs charges after Grindr entrapment in a country with harsh anti-LGBTI laws

Aviña’s life was endangered after he was denied essential HIV medication

‘Qatar’s authorities must urgently end the discrimination and persecution of people based on their sexual orientation’ - Aya Majzoub

The Qatari authorities must quash the conviction of British-Mexican national Manuel Guerrero Aviña, who was sentenced yesterday to a suspended six-month prison term and a fine following a grossly unfair trial before the Al Sadd Criminal Court in Doha, Amnesty International, FairSquare and the National AIDS Trust said.

The three organisations believe that the Qatari authorities are using the case to stigmatise and criminalise LGBTI people in the country. 

Aviña, who had been living in Doha for seven years and worked for Qatar Airways, was arrested by plain-clothed security officials on 4 February, shortly after he agreed to meet a man through Grindr. His family told Amnesty they believe the online profile of the person he agreed to meet was fake and had been created by law-enforcement officials to entrap him. The authorities subsequently charged him with possession of drugs and other drug-related offences, charges he denies.      

The Qatari authorities detained Aviña without charge for more than six weeks, interrogated him about his sexual relations and subjected him to ill-treatment on the basis of his sexual orientation and his HIV-positive status. 

Security officials reportedly interrogated Aviña without a lawyer and forced him to thumbprint a so-called confession in Arabic - which he didn’t understand - threatening him with violence if he didn’t comply. Six hours after signing the “confession” he told a court that he denied all drugs charges. Aviña also told his family that during interrogations security officials threatened to whip him if he didn’t unlock his phone to identify other LGBTI people, including his previous sexual partners.  

Aviña repeatedly asked for a lawyer while in detention but wasn’t able to obtain legal advice until 15 March. The authorities also denied him access to documents relating to his case for more than two months, and only granted him and his lawyers access to the case file days before his first trial session. Aviña told his family that during the second week of detention he was placed in solitary confinement and denied access to food and water for 15 hours a day, and forced to beg for food. The authorities also refused to provide Aviña essential HIV medication for a month following his arrest and didn’t allow him to a proper medical evaluation to re-assess his medication needs. 

Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“The Qatari authorities must overturn Mr Guerrero Aviña’s outrageous conviction and lift his travel ban.

“There are serious fears that Guerrero Aviña was targeted for his sexual orientation and was coerced into providing the authorities with information that they could use to pursue a wider crackdown on LGBTI individuals in Qatar. 

“Qatar’s authorities must urgently end the discrimination and persecution of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identities, and repeal all laws that discriminate against LGBTI people.” 

James Lynch, co-director of FairSquare, said: 

“This case has been a travesty of justice since the moment Manuel was seized in the lobby of his apartment.

“Following his conviction, the British government has a responsibility to make urgent representations to the Qatari government about the deeply unfair and discriminatory process their citizen has been subjected to.

“They must also press the Qatari authorities to stop the persecution of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

Deborah Gold, CEO of National AIDS Trust, said:

“Throughout this whole process of arrest, detention and trial Manuel has been unable to have uninterrupted access to life-saving medication and proper tests and assessment. 

“We are hugely concerned that he will not be able to access the ongoing medical care and treatment that is his human right while in Qatar. 

“We urge the British government to do all it can to ensure Manuel’s health, rights and wellbeing.”

Further case details

On 18 March, Guerrero Aviña was provisionally released from detention under a travel ban. This put his health and life at risk, as the specific HIV medications he was taking before his arrest are not available in Qatar.

A Qatari official told Amnesty on 24 March in response to Amnesty’s request for information on the case: “Mr Aviña was arrested for possession of illegal substances on his person and in his apartment … A drug test later came back positive”. The official added: “Mr Aviña’s arrest and the subsequent investigation are related solely to the possession of illegal substances with the intent to supply.”


On 22 April, Aviña appeared in court for his first hearing under law No 9 of 1987 on Control and Regulation of Narcotic Drugs and Dangerous Psychotropic Substances.

According to the case file, the authorities informed Aviña at the time of his arrest that they had found traces of crystal methamphetamine residue, as well as various other drug paraphernalia. He strongly maintains that the drugs and related items were not his and were planted by law-enforcement officials. 

According to Aviña’s family, his arrest report states that he was arrested based on information from a secret source received by the General Directorate for Drugs Enforcement, and that nothing illegal was found on his person. All evidence was collected during a search of his apartment on 4 February.

The authorities have relied on a questionable handwritten urine test result to prosecute Aviña on drugs charges although he has strongly denied having used or possessed illicit drugs and despite the fact this would not in any way serve as evidence of his possession. According to international standards, conducting drug tests without consent constitutes a violation of the right to privacy and must not be used as evidence for prosecution. 

Criminalising same-sex relations

Qatar criminalises a range of same-sex consensual sexual acts under articles 285 and 296 of the penal code. People found guilty can be jailed for up to seven years. In 2022, activists reported that security officials arbitrarily arrested and tortured six people in Qatar for their sexual orientation. Human Rights Watch has also documented six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022 solely based on a individuals’ gender expression. In some cases, the security forces mandated that transgender women detainees attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored “behavioural healthcare” centre as a condition of their release. Media investigations have also reported the use of LGBTI-friendly dating apps to arrest people in Qatar.

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