Qatar drops ‘criminal’ charges against stadium employee

Schietekat, who fled the country, was charged with sex outside marriage – a crime in Qatar – after reporting an assault on her.

Al Thumama will be one of the venues for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar. PA

A court in Qatar has dropped charges against a Mexican World Cup worker accused of unmarried sex after reporting an assault, the Mexican government and other sources said Monday.

Paola Schietekat, 28, had been sentenced to 100 lashes and seven years in prison, in a case which rights groups say has sparked fears among women taking part in the tournament which begins November 21.

Schietekat, who fled the country, was charged with sex outside marriage – a crime in Qatar – after reporting an assault on her.

On Sunday, a judge decided “to end the criminal proceedings” against him, after several hearings, the Mexican government said in a statement.

This was confirmed by other sources, who however indicated that the case had been referred to prosecutors who could pursue other charges against Schietekat.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision to drop charges against her, but urged Qatar not to press charges.

“The authorities must ensure that no charges are brought and that the case against her is fully closed,” said Rothna Begum, women’s rights specialist at HRW.

She also called on Qatar to decriminalize sex outside marriage, provide more support to women who report assaults, and provide gender training to police and judges.

Schietekat’s case was “scary” because “it means any fan or worker in the country for the World Cup can be sued in the same way just for reporting an infringement,” Begum said.

There was no immediate comment from the Qatari authorities.

Schietekat, who still works for the Qatar World Cup organizing committee from her home in Mexico, was attacked in her room in Doha last June.

She reported the assault to the police, but the defendant – who left Qatar without permission – told investigators he was in a relationship with Schietekat and authorities filed charges against her for having an illicit relationship outside marriage.

Schietekat flew out of Qatar five days later and has since fought the case with the help of rights groups and the organizing committee.

The Mexican government has said that due to ‘cultural’ and ‘legal’ differences between Qatar and other countries, it is now working on a ‘preventive protection strategy’ for fans planning to go to the World Cup .

Qatar, which has said it expects 1.5 million visitors over the four weeks of the World Cup, has been criticized for the rights of foreign workers, women and its gay ban. He says many attacks are unjust.

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James C. Tibbs