UK man trapped in Qatar for more than seven years over legal dispute

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A 75-year-old British man was trapped in the country of Qatar for more than seven years as he was refused permission to leave after a dispute over some business.

Ronald Crook is now back in Gloucestershire and was not allowed to fly home for his father’s funeral due to the travel ban imposed upon him after two influential Qatari brothers took legal action against him over some business dispute.

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Hamad Awjan al-Hajri and Abdulhadi Awjan al-Hajri were brought in as sponsors of a construction company Geosan/Construction Dynamics, of which Ronald Crook was the manager as the Qatari law at that time dictated that any business there must be at least 51% locally owned.

Crook said that role of brothers was to solve the problems related to local customers, buyers, and others.But, when they failed to live up to expectations, they were replaced, provoking a series of legal cases against him, which he always won, only for a new one to be launched each time so that the travel ban was upheld.

“I assumed when the first court case came out regarding the dispute, we would go through it, and that would be that,” said Crook. “Because we had two brothers who were partners when that case was thrown out, they then began exactly the same issue again in the other brother’s name, which they can do.”

“And then they made criminal charges against me. You always think that sense will win, but that’s wrong. People need to go into Qatar with their eyes open.”

The first case was lodged in August 2014, and Crook could not leave until 20 December 2021 which is a total of seven years, 11 months and 15 days after he was last in Britain.

He faced two civil and criminal cases, all of which went to numerous appeals, assessing that he observed more than 50 court hearings. He won on each occasion but argued that the cases were an abuse of the court system.

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Crook said that he and his wife withdrew her residence permit at the outset of the litigation; otherwise, she too would have faced a travel ban. As a result, they spent long times apart, and he could not accompany her back to the UK when she needed an urgent hip operation. But he said missing his father’s funeral in 2015, after a court declined to waive the ban, caused him the most influential pain.

“It was the worst day of my whole life,” he said. “I wrote a eulogy for my son to read out, but on the day, I knew that he was there, my wife was there, and my relatives, but I wasn’t and I will never forget it.”

As painful as his situation was, Crook acknowledges that there are poor workers from developing countries in Qatar, which will host this year’s World Cup, in a far worse dilemma, without the resources he had to attempt to fight back.

When the second criminal case was brought, he said he spent a night in police cells with men who seemed to be Pakistani workers. “After listening their stories, I wondered if they would ever be released,” he said. “They had problems with immigration status or sponsors trying to screw money out of them.”

Crook had rude words for the British nation, who he says were slow to act and told him they did not think he had suffered a loss of human rights.

He said: “At the same time, Qatari nationals are funding billions in the UK, with stakes in Barclays Bank, Sainsbury’s, Canary Wharf, Heathrow airport, Harrods and the Shard. The real story here is that the UK is nervous of disturbing a state which is bankrolling many projects that are key to our economy.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said the consular staff provided support. Hamad Awjan al-Hajri declined to comment. His brother and the Qatari embassy in London did not respond to requests for comment.

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