LONDON: The United Arab Emirates embassy in London denied yesterday reports that a British man was arrested in the country for wearing a Qatar football shirt, saying he was in fact held for wasting police time. It said Ali Essa Ahmed, described as a dual Sudanese-British citizen, last month reported to police that “he had been harassed and beaten up by UAE national football fans for cheering the Qatar team”, at the Asian Cup finals. The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations that the energy-rich state supports extremists.

The embassy said police took Ahmed to hospital “where a doctor who examined him concluded that his injuries were inconsistent with his account of events and appeared to be self-inflicted”. As a result, on Jan 24, “Mr Ahmed was charged with wasting police time and making false statements”, the embassy said. “We are advised he has since admitted those offences and will now be processed through the UAE courts,” said a statement posted online.

It said the British embassy in UAE had been contacted and “due process has been followed”, adding that Ahmed speaks Arabic “and fully understands the situation he has put himself in”. “He was categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt. This is instead an instance of a person seeking media attention and wasting police time.”

The Guardian newspaper reported that the man, named as Ali Issa Ahmad, 26, had travelled to the UAE for a holiday and attended an Asian Cup match between Qatar and Iraq on Jan 22, where he wore a Qatar shirt. The Foreign Office in London said: “We are providing assistance to a British man arrested in the UAE, and are in touch with the local authorities.”

It was not immediately clear what punishment Ahmad could face if found guilty. Qatar’s side was supported by thousands of Omanis in the Asian Cup final, which Qatar won. They wore Qatar scarves and shirts. Qatar were also supported throughout the tournament by a South Korean woman and a Chinese man who dressed in the colors of the Qatar flag. – Agencies