Qatari government ratchets up crackdown within royal family
'The freezing of Sheikh Abdullah’s money was expected, as it is not the first time that the Qatari regime has used this weapon against its opponents,' Khalid al-Hail, a spokesman for the Qatari opposition in London
Obsequence. Qataris pray as they take to the streets of Doha to welcome back Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani upon his return from New York, last September. (AFP)
2017/10/22 Issue: 128 Page: 8
London- The Qatari government has continued to crack down on dissent within the ruling family, storming the home of Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim al-Thani, who voiced opposition to current policy.
Qatari security forces confiscated “important documents,” including “personal and family pictures, jewellery, valuables and money” belonging to Sheikh Sultan’s mother at his Doha palace, a report by Sky News Arabia said.
It reported that 15 armed members of Qatar’s security forces took part in the October 12 raid, during which 137 cases of documents and personal possessions, many belonging to Sheikh Sultan’s father, the late Foreign Minister Suhaim bin Hamad al-Thani, were taken.
Sky News Arabia reported that security personnel assaulted palace workers during the raid, deporting a Sudanese national and detaining the rest.
The raid on the home of Sheikh Sultan, who is in Paris, is believed to be a politically motivated response to his release of a video statement in which he said the Qatari government’s policies had led the country to “the brink of catastrophe.”
Saudi-based Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassem al-Thani, who met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to help Qatari pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia during the haj season, said he was also targeted by Doha.
“The Qatari government has honoured me by freezing all my bank accounts and I thank them for this honour and I have the pleasure to present it to the nation,” Sheikh Abdullah wrote on his official Twitter account.
“I hope that Qatar will drive away the opportunists and those with benefits and to return to its Gulf fold,” he added.
Khalid al-Hail, a spokesman for the Qatari opposition in London, said: “The freezing of Sheikh Abdullah’s money was expected, as it is not the first time that the Qatari regime has used this weapon against its opponents. This is a system used to steal people’s money.”
The Qatari authorities’ crackdown on dissent is tied to Doha’s dispute with a quartet of Arab countries. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Doha in June over what they described as Qatar’s interference in their countries’ internal affairs and its support for radical groups, charges the Qatari government denies.
The ensuing clampdown on dissent has affected all segments of Qatari society. In September, French magazine Le Point, quoting an incarcerated French businessman in Doha, said about 20 members of the bin Ali branch of the royal family had been arrested on charges ranging from issuing bad cheques to drug use. Many, however, said the arrests were because that branch of the royal family disagreed with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
The Qatari government also targeted the Al Murrah tribe, revoking the citizenship of tribal leader Sheikh Taleb bin Lahom bin Shreim and 54 members of his tribe, including 18 women and children.
Revocation of citizenship is frequently used as a weapon by Doha to deal with domestic dissent and the Al Murrah tribe has been a particular target. Thousands of members of the tribe have been displaced and are stateless.
The group, which has branches in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has reportedly been harassed by Qatari authorities since the 1990s.
During a unified Qatari opposition meeting in London in September, Sheikh Talib said the incident occurred after he and other tribal leaders met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
In September, Paris-based Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim supported calls by his uncle, Sheikh Abdullah al- Thani, for a national meeting to resolve the dispute with a Saudi-led quartet of countries.
“I endorse all calls for a meeting hoping that all the members of the ruling family, distinguished members and thinkers to engage in this meeting so they can become one hand to protect Qatar from enemies and deserters,” Sheikh Sultan said.