Prominent human rights activist Peter Tatchell said he was “arrested” in Qatar after staging a one-man protest against the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people there.

Standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha on 25 October, he held a placard which read: “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion’.”

Tatchell was on the street with his sign for 35 minutes before security forces are believed to have arrived, followed by police.

He claimed that he and his colleague were arrested and detained on the kerbside for 49 minutes, adding that the latter had the photos and videos on his phone deleted by officers.

The Qatari government acknowledged asking someone to move, but called claims of arrest “completely false”.

“Rumours on social media that a representative from the Peter Tatchell Foundation has been arrested in Qatar are completely false and without merit,” it said in a statement.

“An individual standing in a traffic roundabout was cordially and professionally asked to move to the sidewalk, no arrests were made.

“We are always open to dialogue with entities that wish to discuss important topics, but spreading false information with the deliberate intention of provoking negative responses is irresponsible and unacceptable.”

It marks the “first” public LGBTQ+ protest in Qatar or any Gulf state, Tatchell’s team said.

It comes after the Human Rights Watch reported cases of LGBTQ+ people being detained and subjected to “ill-treatment in detention” in Qatar as recently as last month.

There were at least six cases of “severe and repeated beatings” reported, as well as five incidences of “sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022.”

This is despite the Football Association assuring fans that they will not face arrest for kissing or holding hands in public at the World Cup in November.

This year’s tournament has been marred with controversy since it was announced that it would take place in the Gulf state, where homosexuality is illegal and the LGBTQ+ community is subjected to discriminatory laws.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome said staging the protest took “huge courage” from Tatchell.

“His arrest in Qatar only proves his point,” she added. “A brutal regime that persecutes LGBTQ people should not have been allowed to host the World Cup.”

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place from 20 November – 18 December this year.

This article has been updated to reflect the Qatari government denying that an arrest took place.