Source: Family of Manuel Aviña

British Gay Man's Family Says He was Targeted, Abused by Anti-Gay Qatari Law Enforcement

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

A gay British-Mexican man was placed under arrest and accused of drug possession by Qatari police when he showed up for a Grindr date – a situation his family says shows he was targeted and framed.

"Manuel Guerrero Aviña was approached online by a man called 'Gio' and they arranged to meet – but he was instead met by police and arrested on false drug charges" according to Aviña's brother, the BBC reported.

There were no red flags to alert Aviña, who worked for Qatar Airways, that the meeting he had agreed to with "Gio" might turn out to be a trap, the BBC noted.

"His Grindr profile, seen by the BBC, was full of gym selfies showing off his six-pack," the BBC relayed. "His listed interests were karaoke, football and Netflix."

BBC noted that "Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar but Manuel... had lived a 'normal life' for the past seven years and had never been in trouble with the authorities, his family says."

So he had no reason to suspect anything was amiss when he "swapped phone numbers with the man and invited him over to his apartment in Qatar's capital, Doha," as his brother, Enrique, says he did.

But then things turned on a dime, the writeup recounted, narrating that "when Manuel went down to the lobby of his building to meet 'Gio,' he was instead confronted by Qatari police officers, according to his brother, who says they immediately handcuffed Manuel and placed him under arrest."

The official reason offered for Aviña's arrest was "for possession of illegal substances on his person and in his apartment," the Qatari authorities say, claiming that "no other factors were taken into account..."

But Aviña's family don't believe that. "Enrique maintains that Manuel didn't take any drugs and says a small amount of methamphetamine was planted on him, which he was 'pressured' into accepting was his."

British ex-diplomat and LGBTQ+ advocate James Lynch, who is the co-director of FairSquare, a human rights watchdog, denounced the arrest and detention of Aviña, who has been released from jail but whose passport was confiscated to keep him in the country while his case is processed.

"This has been about his LGBT status from the start and his desire to express that status and his identity, and that's what this case is about," Lynch declared.

"He's an LGBT person and he was targeted through a dating app," Lynch added. "You don't do that, unless that's the thing you are focused on."

Aviña's family offered an account of his detention that painted a grim – and familiar – picture of how gay men are treated in countries with harsh anti-gay laws.

"While being held in custody at the police station, Manuel allegedly witnessed others being 'whipped on their backs' by officers," the BBC relayed, "and was threatened with similar treatment if he did not sign several legal documents" – papers that were "written in Arabic," which Aviña was unable to read.

"His brother says that when Manuel told the prison about his HIV they moved him into solitary confinement and would sporadically withhold his medication to pressure him into sharing information about other gay men," the BBC added, "which he refused to do."

The article went on to say that "Qatari officials have told the BBC that Manuel was 'treated with respect and dignity throughout his detention.'"

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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