The family of a Scottish engineer jailed in Iraq as he awaits extradition to Qatar fear they may “never see him again” after he was convicted over missed loan repayments.
Brian Glendinning was subjected to an Interpol “red notice” following his detention at Basra Airport on September 12, days before he was due to start a new job as a contractor at a BP oil refinery.
The 43-year-old grandfather, from Kincardine in Fife, is alleged to have failed to keep up with charges on a £20,000 loan from Qatar National Bank (QNB) in 2016 after falling ill at Christmas.
Mr Glendinning’s brother, John, told STV News the job would have allowed him to clear the outstanding balance, but Brian will not be able to work if he is extradited to the Gulf nation – where he was jailed “in absentia” for two years in 2017.
Human rights groups have decried the “intimate” relationship between Interpol and Qatar and accused the nation – which is due to host the World Cup in just over a month – of using the force as its own personal “debt collectors”.
John, 39, has sold his car and moved money off his credit card in an effort to pay skyrocketing legal fees to fight Brian’s case, while the family has also started a crowdfunding campaign to help meet costs.
However, his family are now concerned Qatar’s harsh rules on debt repayment – which can involve soaring interest rates and detention until the loan is repaid in full – mean it could be years before he is allowed to return home to his three children and granddaughter Frankie, one.
John said: “The loans are very attractive because the interest rate is so low and he was repaying it every month, like any bank loan, but when he was unable to return to work, his sick pay stopped, he couldn’t keep up with the payments for a little while.
“He had left all his personal belongings in Qatar, this wasn’t someone who was intent on leaving, he was fully intending on going back once he was well enough. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but he had been in contact with the bank about repaying it.
“The first he knew about his conviction was when he was stopped in Basra, Qatar had not been in touch for five years to tell him he had been jailed, there was no trial, nothing.”
He added: “He is being treated like a crime lord. Brian has never broken the law, he has never been in trouble and they are holding him over this debt.”
After an initial appearance in front of a court in Basra, Mr Glendinning was moved to Baghdad for a secondary hearing, however that is yet to take place while the court and Interpol await further paperwork from the Gulf state.
An initial “live warrant” handed to him following his detention stated it was valid for six months in 2019, but he did not receive the notice until over three years later.
He could now face a long custodial term in Iraq before his extradition case is considered as the country does not enforce guidance that requests are considered within the 45-day period.
If the extradition passes, Mr Glendinning could then face an extended period in the country unless the debt, which can rise to more than five times the original amount with interest, is paid.
“This could go on for years,” John said.
“If Qatar had their way, he would be in jail for two years and then we would have to repay that loan. We would be touching £100,000 at that stage. It’s just not money that we have.
“So then what, we just say goodbye? The loan is there to be repaid, that is what a loan is, he was trying to do that.
“But it is the obscene interest rates. It is preying on families who want their brothers, sons, husbands, whatever back.”
Mr Glendinning’s family are being supported by the IPEX NGO, headed by human rights campaigner Radha Stirling.
She said the use of the Interpol red notice, usually reserved for high-profile offenders, “made a mockery” of the force.
Ms Stirling added: “The bank deliberately activates wrongful Interpol Notices as a debt collection tactic akin to extortion.
“They wait for a customer to be arrested and hope the parents will dispose of assets and pay the debt themselves. The bank usually asks for substantially more than what was owed, knowing parents will pay anything to keep their children out of jail.”
She added: “It works for them but makes a mockery of Interpol and extradition courts”.
STV News approached Interpol, QNB and the Qatari national police force for comment, but received no response.
A spokesperson for the foreign office confirmed they were in contact with authorities in both countries over the case.
They added: “We are providing support to a British man who has been arrested in Iraq and are in touch with the local authorities.”
Mr Glendinning’s family have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay legal fees. It can be found here.