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Gay man says Qatar authorities lured him via dating app, planted drugs and subjected him to unfair trial

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A British-Mexican man who says he was targeted for being gay and arrested on false drug charges in Qatar has been given a suspended six-month jail sentence, a fine amounting to about $2,700, and a deportation order by a court in the Arab nation, which is a vital U.S. ally in the Middle East, according to his family and Mexican officials.

In a statement shared with media outlets by his family, dual British-Mexican national Manuel Guerrero Aviña said he was "deeply disappointed with yesterday's unfair verdict, issued in spite of the violations of due process during my detention and trial, which included torture and mistreatment to pressure me into revealing the names of other gay partners and forcing me to use my fingerprint to sign multiple documents in Arabic without a translator."

"The Qatari authorities have convicted me because I am gay, and this is a breach of my human rights," Guerrero Aviña said, adding that he was glad he could leave Qatar, but condemned what he called the "unfair trial I have been subjected to and the torture and ill treatment I endured during my preliminary detention."

In a statement sent to CBS News on Thursday, a Qatari official said Guerrero Aviña "was arrested for possession of illegal substances. He acknowledged the possession of the seized substances and was subsequently booked, registered, and presented to the court. A drug test later came back positive, confirming the presence of amphetamine and methamphetamine in Mr Aviña's system at the time of his arrest."

The official accused Guerrero Aviña and his family of making "numerous false allegations in an attempt to generate public sympathy and support for his case."

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, but Guerrero Aviña, who worked in the airline industry, had a home there and had lived a "normal life," experiencing no issues with authorities until his arrest, his family said.

Relatives and friends of Manuel Guerrero Aviña, a Mexican-British citizen imprisoned in Qatar on what he and his family say were false drug charges, demonstrate to demand his release outside the British embassy in Mexico City, March 4, 2024. ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty

Guerrero Aviña's brother Enrique told CBS News partner network BBC News previously that Manuel had exchanged numbers with someone named "Gio" on the LGBTQ+ app Grindr and arranged to meet at Guerrero Aviña's home in Doha. When Guerrero Aviña went downstairs to let the man in, his brother said Qatari police were in the lobby and arrested him. Guerrero Aviña's brother said Manuel then had a small amount of amphetamines planted on him, and that he had not taken any drugs.

Qatari officials said in a statement shared with the BBC previously that "no other factors were taken into account" apart from the alleged drug violations in Guerrero Aviña's arrest.

The Qatari official who spoke Thursday with CBS News reiterated that stance and added that Guerrero Aviña had "been treated with respect and dignity throughout his detention." 

According to Mexico's foreign ministry, Guerrero Aviña was to be allowed to leave Qatar after paying the fine of 10,000 riyals, equivalent to about $2,750.

Guerrero Aviña told his family he'd witnessed other prisoners being whipped and was threatened with the same treatment if he did not sign legal documents written in Arabic, which he cannot read. His brother said that when authorities learned Guerrero Aviña was HIV+, they moved him into solitary confinement and withheld medication at times to try to pressure him to share information about other gay men, which he said his brother had refused to provide.

Middle East researcher Dana Ahmed told BBC News that Guerrero Aviña's treatment in detention, and later in his first trial sessions, "raises serious fears that Manuel is being targeted for his sexual orientation and is being coerced into providing the authorities with information that they could use to pursue a crackdown on LGBTI individuals in Qatar."

In a Saturday social media post, British parliamentarian Kate Osborne shared a photo of a letter to her and other members of the U.K. legislature from the nation's top diplomat, Foreign Secretary David Cameron, addressing Guerrero Aviña's case, in which he said he was "closely following" the proceedings, but that the U.K. government was "unable to interfere with the judicial affairs of other countries."

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