Qatari government ratchets up crackdown within royal family

Sunday 22/10/2017
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)

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.