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Qatar OFWs bound, burned, beaten into confessing crime

By: - NewsLab Lead / @MSantosINQ
/ 01:05 PM March 11, 2015
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Department of Foreign Affairs building. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Three Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) convicted of espionage in Qatar back in April 2014 had been bound, burned and beaten to force them to confess to the charges, an international human rights group said.

Amnesty International (AI) questioned the verdict of a lower court in Qatar last April 30, 2014, after they have received information that one of them was “repeatedly tortured” to make him confess to the allegations.

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The 48-year-old OFW, identified as “Ronaldo,” was working as a civilian technician at the Qatar Air Force Base when he was arrested in Doha in April 2010 for allegedly selling confidential information. Ronaldo and another were sentenced to life imprisonment while the other one was sentenced to death.

BACKSTORY: Filipino meted out death in Qatar for espionage

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“(Ronaldo) endured repeated bouts of physical and psychological torture and other ill-treatment for the first eight months of his detention in the state security prison,” AI said in a statement.

“During two interrogation sessions he was burned with cigarettes on his back and legs, stripped naked and forced to crawl around on the floor until his knees bled, and was frequently punched and slapped,” it said.

Ronaldo was made to spend four years in solitary confinement and was only allowed out of his cell two or three times a week for 15 minutes at a time. He was also not permitted to go outdoors, AI said.

“During his time in detention he was also held for prolonged periods with his hands bound behind his back and deprived of sleep by guards who taunted him with claims that his family were dead,” it said.

Ronaldo was forced to sign a written “confession” which was in Arabic, despite him being unable to read it. This was later presented to court but he testified he was only forced to sign it after being tortured.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) previously issued a categorical denial that the Philippine government was spying on Qatar. DFA Spokesman Charles Jose assured that legal assistance will be provided to the OFWs.

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“Given the fact that (Ronaldo) was held in solitary confinement for four years prior to his trial, his allegation that he was repeatedly tortured in order to force him to ‘confess’, and the use of this ‘confession’ in his trial, his conviction is clearly unsafe,” Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of AI’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said in the statement.

“We are concerned that unless the allegations of torture of (Ronaldo) and the two other (Filipino) men are independently and impartially investigated, the current appeal will also be fundamentally unfair,” he said.

The appeal for Ronaldo’s case was held on March 9, 2015. AI said it has raised the torture claims before the Qatar government twice already but has not gotten a response.

“Despite the Qatari government’s eagerness to project a global image of a wealthy glamorous nation committed to respecting human rights, this case has brought to light a more sinister side to the Gulf state that the international community can no longer continue to ignore,” Boumedouha said.

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“If the Qatari authorities want to prove they are serious about having a transparent judicial system and tackling human rights violations, then instead of turning a blind eye to this case they must immediately announce a full investigation into torture allegations and review the way the lower court trial was conducted,” Boumedouha added.

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TAGS: AI, Amnesty Insternational, Charles Jose, Department of Foreign Affairs, Espionage, Overseas Filipino workers, Qatar, Said Boumedouha, torture
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