Metro Weekly

Gay Man Catfished in Grindr Sting Sentenced by Qatar Court

A Doha-based British-Mexican flight attendant, who was lured through Grindr, sentenced on disputed drug charges.

Manuel Guerrero Aviña - Photo: #QatarMustFreeManuel, via X
Manuel Guerrero Aviña – Photo: #QatarMustFreeManuel, via X

A gay British-Mexican man living in Doha, Qatar, who was arrested in a sting operation via the gay dating app Grindr in February, was sentenced to a suspended six-month sentence and deportation from the country, the BBC reports.

Manuel Guerrero Aviña, 44, has been living in Doha for the past seven years, working as a flight attendant with Qatar Airways.

While Aviña reports being misled into thinking he was meeting an individual he met on Grindr, he was actually met by plainclothes Qatari police and arrested.

Authorities detained him and charged him with drug offenses, while his U.K.-based brother, Enrique, called for his release, as well as access to HIV medications for his HIV-positive brother.

According to Enrique, “When Manuel told the prison about his HIV they moved him into solitary confinement and would sporadically withhold his medication to pressure him into sharing information about other gay men – which he refused to do.”

After sentencing, Amnesty International, along with U.K-based FairSquare and National AIDS Trust, released a June 5 statement demanding Qatari authorities overturn the sentence.

Meanwhile, Aviña must remain in Qatar as the law allows authorities 30 days to appeal the sentence, which includes a fine of approximately $2,700.

The joint statement includes a quote from Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Qatari authorities must overturn Mr Guerrero Aviña’s outrageous conviction and lift his travel ban,” Majzoub says. “There are serious fears that Guerrero Aviña was targeted for his sexual orientation and was coerced into providing the authorities with information that they could use to pursue a wider crackdown on LGBTI individuals in Qatar.

“Guerrero Aviña’s treatment in custody and his unfair trial was utterly horrific. Instead of convicting people after unfair proceedings, Qatar’s authorities must urgently end the discrimination and persecution of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identities and repeal all laws that discriminate against LGBTI people.”

BBC reporting notes that Qatari authorities insist Aviña was targeted for drug possession only, despite employing the gay-dating app. Aviña denies the drug charges.

A statement attributed to a Qatari official, via the Qatar Embassy in Washington, reads, in part, “Mr Aviña was arrested for possession of illegal substances. He acknowledged the possession of the seized substances and was subsequently booked, registered, and presented to the court. A drug test later came back positive, confirming the presence of amphetamine and methamphetamine in Mr Aviña’s system at the time of his arrest.

“Since his arrest, Mr. Aviña and his family have made numerous false allegations in an attempt to generate public sympathy and support for his case. A person’s beliefs, background, or orientation do not exempt them from the law, especially when facing serious charges related to the possession of drugs with the intent to sell.”

 The statement continues, “Contrary to certain media reports, no other factors were taken into account when making the arrest, and Mr Aviña has been treated with respect and dignity throughout his detention.”

Notably, same-sex acts are illegal in Qatar, as are all sexual relations outside of marriage. Ahead of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, The Guardian spoke with Dr. Nasser Mohamed, a U.S.-based Qatari doctor, who said he’s in contact with hundreds of gay Qataris. 

“When the law enforcement finds one person, they actively try to find their entire network,” Mohamed told The Guardian. “Now there are [Qatari] agents in the gay community that were promised safety from physical torture in exchange for working for the preventative security department and helping them find groups of LGBTQ+ people.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!