DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Qatar has confirmed it is holding two Britons who went missing while researching migrant labor issues, saying the men are being questioned for alleged illegal activity in the Gulf nation that is due to hold the 2022 World Cup.
A little-known organization, the Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development, reported that its researcher Krishna Upadhyaya, 52, and photographer Ghimire Gundev, 36, went missing on Aug. 31 as they were preparing to leave Qatar. It suggested that Qatari security services were behind their disappearance and has called for their release.
The London-based rights group Amnesty International last week urged Qatari authorities to reveal the men's whereabouts and ensure their safety.
Qatar's Foreign Ministry said in its first comment on the case Saturday that the men were arrested and "are being interrogated for having violated the provisions of the laws of the state of Qatar," according to a statement carried by the official Qatar News Agency.
The statement said that all actions taken against the men are "consistent with the principles of human rights" outlined in the laws of Qatar, and that British Embassy officials have visited them to check on their situation.
An official at the British Embassy in Doha confirmed Sunday that the mission is providing consular assistance to the men but was unable to provide further details.
The Global Network for Rights and Development is based in Stavanger, Norway and describes itself on its website as a neutral organization set up in 2008 to promote human rights and development. Many of its recent statements have focused on the conflict in Gaza and other issues related to the Middle East.
It has singled out Qatar in the past over conditions faced by migrant workers. Like its Gulf Arab neighbors, Qatar relies on vast numbers of mainly Asian low-paid migrant workers. Its treatment of them has come under greater scrutiny since it won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, with labor rights activists raising concerns about dangerous working conditions, allegations of unpaid salaries and other abuses.
Egypt's official State Information Service in December noted that the Global Network for Rights and Development supported listing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and the group has since described a constitutional referendum and May elections that led to the presidency of former military strongman Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as a "democratic transition."
El-Sissi led the military overthrow of the Brotherhood-backed government of President Mohammed Morsi last year. Qatar is a strong supporter of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups -- a position that has put it at odds with Gulf neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.