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British Ambassador to Qatar inherits “tough job” with calls to rescue British hostages.

HE Jon Wilks took over as British Ambassador to Qatar, inheriting a country seeking to strengthen relations with the UK, while simultaneously being scrutinised for human rights violations against citizens.

Gulf expert Radha Stirling who helps British nationals detained abroad, has asked His Excellency Mr John Wilks to strengthen the alliance with the UK by securing the release of British citizens held hostage in the gulf state.

Stirling founded Detained in Doha to cope with the increasing number of judicial complaints by foreign nationals in Qatar.  In a series of live broadcasts, Stirling notes substantial investment by Qatar into the UK’s private sector encouraging Brits to invest or work in Doha, while simultaneously violating the rights of citizens who gave the country a chance.

74 year old grandfather Ranald Crook will meet with HE Jon Wilks tomorrow to plead for British FCO intervention into his six year long tormenting detention in Doha.  Radha Stirling, who has been advocating for Ranald, issued a statement today:

“Qatar has been heavily investing into the private sector in our country, into the Ritz, British Airways and into our educational facilities and universities.  With FIFA 2022 approaching, Doha has been recruiting skilled engineers, commercial groups and investors from the UK to help build up the country.  The tiny island nation has doubled down on lobbying public relations efforts, to secure an influential stronghold, while competing against former gulf allies after the blockade.

“The country has suffered some blows these past couple of weeks, with international outrage and the strip search of female passengers onboard a flight from Doha to Sydney.  The passengers, which included British nationals, were forced off a plane and invasively searched in an effort to discover whether any of them had recently given birth.  Qatar has since apologised for the incident, but victims have not forgotten what has been called sexual assault by authorities investigating the matter.

“During this devastating hit on airport authorities in Doha, Qatar was under fire again after issuing an Interpol Red Notice and extradition request against British national Conor Howard, over an herb grinder he purchased in Australia.  Conor was in transit from Australia to the United Kingdom when Qatar authorities confiscated his herb grinder and allowed him to travel home to Scotland.  Almost a year later, Conor was arrested while on a family holiday in Corfu, Greece and detained pending extradition proceedings.  Judges in Greece eventually rejected Qatar’s request and allowed Conor to go home, but the red notice should never have been issued in the first place.  Former Justice Minister Kenny McAskillm and the FCO got behind Conor, calling Qatar’s extradition request “ridiculous” and “abusive”.

“This is not where it stops.  Qatar has kept grandfather Ranald Crook in the country for over six years as he fights for his freedom, taken away from him after two influential Qataris levied false allegations against him.  False allegations to extort British nationals or to punish them for vindictive reasons are all too common in the Gulf and Ranald is yet another victim of this horrendous practice.  Remarkably, Ranald has been proven over and over again in the courts to be innocent of all charges against him, but his accusers, who are closely linked to the royal family, abuse the system by opening the same cases over and over again, and delaying the legal process.

“We can not accept Qatar’s advances to strengthen relations and support British-Qatar business associations, investment and trade groups, while Qatar refuses to address the abuse of British nationals who were encouraged, even lured, to the country and subsequently taken advantage of.  There is no incentive for British investors and businessmen to go to Qatar if there is a real likelihood that they can lose their life savings or risk imprisonment like Ranald Crook, or Brit Jonathan Nash.

“I am thankful Mr Wilks is taking an interest in Mr Crook’s case, but enough is enough.  Mr Crook is a 74 year old grandfather, who has been stuck in Qatar for almost seven years.  He has not met his grandchild and was not able to comfort or look after his father in his final days.  And why?  Ranald has done nothing wrong in the country, has not violated any laws and has in fact, contributed to Qatar’s growth.

“The ruling family needs to protect the rights of people like Ranald Crook if they want to really be a viable place for investors to consider.  In a climate where foreign nationals can be held hostage or jailed without evidence, the British government, the commerce and investment groups and the media need to do everything they can to ensure our citizens avoid the country until assurances can be made that our nationals will not be mistreated.

“I am confident that Mr Wilks will be able to persuade the Qatari government that is indeed in their best interests to free Ranald Crook.  In our Gulf in Justice Podcast last week, Ranald’s son Ross made an emotional plea for his release.  It has been an extremely challenging time for the family and Ranald has been more than patient, having tried every avenue to resolve his situation quietly.  His requests to the FCO over the years have been largely ignored, and it’s absolutely time the British government negotiated more than just trade and commerce deals with the country.  If Qatar wants our partnership, give us back our citizens”.


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