LONDON - Britain is assisting a British national arrested in the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Office said Tuesday following reports that a man was being detained for having worn a Qatar football shirt there.
The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017 over allegations that the tiny, energy-rich state supports Islamic extremists.
The Foreign Office warns in its advice for visitors to the UAE of subsequent new laws.
"Showing sympathy for Qatar on social media or by any other means of communication is an offense," it says.
"Offenders could be imprisoned and subject to a substantial fine."
The UAE hosted the recent Asian Cup 2019 football tournament. Qatar beat Japan 3-1 in the final on Friday to win the competition for the first time.
Qatar thrashed the UAE 4-0 in the semi-finals when their players were pelted with shoes and plastic bottles.
The Guardian newspaper reported that Ali Issa Ahmad, 26, had traveled to the UAE for a holiday, bought a ticket for the second round match between Qatar and Iraq on January 22 and wore a Qatar shirt to the game.
"We are providing assistance to a British man arrested in the UAE, and are in touch with the local authorities," a Foreign Office spokesman said, when asked by AFP about the case.
Ahmad's friend Amer Lokie said he had called him on Thursday in his one permitted phone call.
Ahmad "says he was arrested and beaten after being accused of wearing a football shirt which promoted Qatar," Lokie told The Guardian.
Lokie said Ahmad was released but it seemed he had then been assaulted by security forces, "went to the police station to report the assault and was accused of... making false allegations against UAE security officials."