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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Arab ambassadors' letter warns on Qatar terror impunity

Qatar concedes prime minister made a 'personal visit' to terror family's wedding but claims it won't affect legal proceedings 

Abdullah Al Nuaimi, the groom, left, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister and interior minister. Image taken from social media
Abdullah Al Nuaimi, the groom, left, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister and interior minister. Image taken from social media

Ambassadors from the Arab Quartet have cited the presence of Qatar’s prime minister at the wedding of a son of the designated terror suspect Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi to warn that the country’s behaviour remains unchanged.

Writing in the Financial Times newspaper, the four envoys to London said that calls for the countries involved to start a “thaw” in the lead-up to a potential summit hosted by President Donald Trump were a reflection that Doha says one thing to Western audience and does another.

“Following his meeting at the White House on 11 April, Qatar’s Emir Tamim told the world’s media that Qatar does 'not tolerate people who fund and support terrorism'”, it said. “Just two days later, the Qatari Prime Minister attended a wedding hosted by Abdulrahman Al Nuaymi, an international designated terror financier who, according to the US Treasury, 'oversaw the transfer of $2 million per month' to Al Qaeda in Iraq. He is one of several terror fundraisers who have operated from Qatar with impunity.”

Read more: Qatar's top terror suspect hosts prime minister at wedding

The ambassadors added that Qatar’s propaganda machine had incited cross-border attacks from the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has bombarded Saudi Arabia with Iranian-made missiles.

“Far from seeking to improve relations with its neighbours, Qatar has used its media networks to attack us – most egregiously, broadcasting calls by Houthis for attacks on Saudi Arabia,” the letter added. “Qatar says one thing – to Western audiences – and does another. Instead of focusing on public relations campaigns, Qatar should truly change its behaviour; and then this dispute will end.”

The Financial Times had called on all parties to the stand-off to resolve their differences by incremental gestures.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa, the Qatar prime minister, attended the wedding of Abdullah Al Nuaimi on April 11. Sheikh Abdullah also serves as interior minister and is responsible for placing the groom’s father on the terror list just weeks earlier.

Anwar Al Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, took to Twitter on Monday to highlight the credibility issues surrounding the images – the Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal was also at the event.

“The presence of the Qatari prime minister in a family wedding of Al Nuaimi’s son, a terrorist that supports Al Qaeda, has undermined the efforts of dozens of public relations firms in Washington,” Mr Gargash said on Twitter. “It also proves that Doha supports terrorism.”

In a statement to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Qatar claimed for the first time that the attendance was in a “personal” capacity. The statement claimed that Al Nuaimi, who was smiling broadly in a series of images published in the newspaper Al Raya, was facing new charges even though he remains at liberty in the state.

“There is no hypocrisy at work here,” the statement said. “The prime minister will continue to support the good work of his employees and will not avoid a family affair because a defendant standing trial may possibly be in attendance."

Read more: UAE says Qatar terrorist wedding undermines its public image

Experts in international sanctions law, however, said there is an onus on host states to show that action is being taken against proscribed suspects on the UN terror list. Al Nuaimi was accused by the US treasury of sending millions of dollars a month to Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2014.

“When it comes to the terror lists there is an expectation on a country of following through,” said Shashank Joshi, a fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute. “It has to be a diplomatic concern for Qatar when the expectations are that it is getting tougher on terrorism.”

Pressure has mounted for legal action against Qatar in the European courts. Liesbeth Zegveld, a Dutch lawyer, has accused the wealthy Gulf state of failing to take action to halt funding for the Syrian Al Nusra Front as she issued a demand for compensation payments to Dutch-based victims.

"Qatar is therefore liable for the damages suffered by the victims," she said.

Qatar denies funding extremist groups. In a separate letter to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir, Ms Zegveld alleged that one of the victims was taken hostage by members of Al Nusra near Damascus in December 2012.

The man, whose identity was not released out of safety concerns, was repeatedly tortured, forced to watch the executions of two other hostages and subjected to a mock execution. The militants demanded nearly $2 million (Dh7.3m) for his release.

He eventually escaped and fled Syria, and has since been granted asylum in the Netherlands, Ms Zegveld said.

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