Qatar denies trying to pay ransom to free hostages in Iraq

In this photo released by Qatar News Agency, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, second left in front row, receives the released Qataris at the Doha airport in Doha, Qatar, in this April 21, 2017 photo. (AP)
Updated 28 April 2017

Qatar denies trying to pay ransom to free hostages in Iraq

DOHA/BAGHDAD: Qatar has denied trying to pay ransom money this month to secure the release of 26 Qataris abducted in Iraq a year and a half ago by unidentified gunmen, in a complex saga that has highlighted the Gulf state’s strained ties with Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday authorities had seized suitcases containing hundreds of millions of dollars on a private Qatari jet that landed in Baghdad. He suggested the funds were part of a deal to free the hostages without Baghdad’s approval.
The 26 Qataris, including members of the country’s ruling royal family, were abducted during a hunting trip in southern Iraq in 2015. They were released last Friday.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, told Doha-based Al Jazeera late on Wednesday that Baghdad had been consulted about the money he said was sent “to support the authorities in the release of Qatari abductees.”
“Qatar has provided funds to Iraq in an official, clear and public manner,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “Qatar did not deal with armed groups outside the authority of the (Iraqi) state.”
It was the first official statement made by the government in Doha since the release of the 26 men, who were abducted in Iraqi territory dominated by militias aligned with neighboring Shiite power Iran.


Soldier who shot Lebanese protester dead charged with murder

Updated 15 min 5 sec ago

Soldier who shot Lebanese protester dead charged with murder

  • Alaa Abu Fakhr, 38, was shot dead Nov. 12 by the soldier, who was trying to open a road closed by protesters
  • The soldier and the colonel were both referred to a military investigative judge

BEIRUT: A Lebanese soldier who shot and killed a protester in Beirut last week was charged Thursday by a military prosecutor with murder, state-run National News Agency said.
The agency said a colonel who was on the scene with the soldier at the time was also charged. The soldier could get a death sentence if convicted of murder.
Alaa Abu Fakhr, 38, was shot dead Nov. 12 by the soldier, who was trying to open a road closed by protesters in southern Beirut, marking the first death since widespread protests against Lebanon’s ruling elite began Oct. 17.
The soldier, who NNA identified only by his first name and the first letter of his last name, Charbel A, has been under detention since the day of the shooting. He and the colonel, identified as Nidal D, were referred to a military investigative judge who will start questioning them on Monday, according to NNA.
Protests exploded on the streets in mid-October in response to new proposed taxes and quickly evolved into an unprecedented nationwide uprising against the country’s entire political leadership. Protesters demand all those politicians go, blaming them for decades of systematic corruption that has left the Mediterranean country on the brink of economic and financial disaster.
Also on Thursday, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for a session next Wednesday to study draft laws related to banking secrecy and retaking stolen state money.
Berri’s call came two days after protesters prevented legislators from reaching the parliament building to draft and study new laws. The protesters say parliament has no right to draft laws as there is no government since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned Oct. 29, meeting a key demand of protesters.
President Michel Aoun’s office announced that a ceremony to celebrate Independence Day at the presidential palace on Friday has been canceled because of “the current situation.”
A military parade is scheduled to mark the anniversary at a barracks southeast of Beirut.