The veteran LGBT activist and campaigner Peter Tatchell was stopped by police as he staged a protest in Qatar before the World Cup next month.
Mr Tatchell, 70, said he stood outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha on Tuesday for around an hour wearing a T-shirt that read “Qatar Anti Gay” and carrying a placard that said: “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion’.”
He was stopped by five police officers, who folded up his placard and took photos of his passport and other papers and those of a man accompanying him.
Speaking before the protest, Mr Tatchell said: “Qatar cannot be allowed to sportswash its reputation. It is using the World Cup to enhance its international image. We must ensure that the tyrant regime in Doha does not score a PR victory.
“Despite FIFA saying that discrimination will not be tolerated, if a Qatari footballer came out as gay, he would be more likely to be arrested and jailed than be selected for the national team. That’s discrimination and against FIFA’s rules.
“I did this protest to shine a light on Qatar’s human rights abuses against LGBT+ people, women, migrant workers and liberal Qataris. I am supporting their brave battle against tyranny.”
Mr Tatchell, who is director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, a human rights organisation, staged a similar protest before the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Footballers concerned by Qatar LGBT rights record
The World Cup begins in the Gulf state on 20 November.
Homosexuality is illegal in the conservative Muslim country, and some football stars have raised concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the event.
Organisers of the World Cup, which is the first held in a Middle Eastern nation, say that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome, while also warning against public displays of affection.
Commenting on Mr Tatchell’s demonstration, the Qatar Government Communications Office said that “rumours” he had been arrested are “completely false and without merit”.
“An individual standing in a traffic roundabout was cordially and professionally asked to move to the sidewalk, no arrests were made,” it added.
But in an interview with Sky News, head of the Qatar World Cup Nasser Al Khater said the country’s anti-LGBT laws will not be changed and fans need to be “respectful of the culture”.
“At the end of the day, as long as you don’t do anything that harms other people, if you’re not destroying public property, as long as you’re behaving in a way that’s not harmful, then everybody’s welcome and you have nothing to worry about,” he said.
He added that although fans will be able to wave rainbow flags, decisions on players wearing ‘One Love’ armbands are for FIFA.
A report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) has claimed that Qatari police have arbitrarily arrested a number of LGBT people as recently as last month.
A Qatari official responded by saying HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false”.
A spokesperson added: “Qatar does not tolerate discrimination against anyone, and our policies and procedures are underpinned by a commitment to human rights for all.”