Qatar to show leniency toward World Cup fans for ‘minor offenses’

i24NEWS - Reuters

3 min read
Branding is displayed near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, in Doha, Qatar, on March 31, 2022.
AP Photo/Darko Bandic, FileBranding is displayed near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, in Doha, Qatar, on March 31, 2022.

'Increased leniency pleases the international community' but risks upsetting those within the country

World Cup fans in Qatar caught committing minor offenses – such as public drunkenness – will not be prosecuted under plans being developed by authorities in the conservative Muslim nation, according to sources close to the matter.

A diplomat and a source familiar with Qatari briefings to foreign police told Reuters that while policing strategy for the competition is not finalized, organizers told diplomats and police from qualified countries they intend to show flexibility for relatively minor infringements.

The signals reflect the delicate balance that Qatar, a tiny Sunni Islamic Arab state, is trying to strike between respecting religious traditions and accommodating the raucous exuberance of more than a million visiting soccer fans in less than two months.

"Increased leniency pleases the international community, but comes with the risk that it might upset conservatives inside the country," a Western diplomat said.

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Organizers did not publicly clarify their approach to policing, and many embassies warned fans they could face punishment for behavior that would be tolerated elsewhere.

According to Qatar’s legal code, freedom of expression is restricted, homosexuality is illegal, and sex outside marriage is outlawed.

Public drunkenness can be met with a prison sentence of up to six months, and some things considered benign elsewhere like public displays of affection or wearing revealing clothes can be ground for arrest.

However, organizers already intend to relax Qatar's strict laws limiting the public sale of alcohol, and will allow beer to be served near stadiums a few hours before matches kick off. 

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