UAE ruling family member: Qatar now questioning its leaders

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. (video grab)
Updated 07 June 2017
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UAE ruling family member: Qatar now questioning its leaders

UAE: An outspoken Emirati ruling family member on Wednesday raised the prospect of Qatar’s leadership changing amid a growing diplomatic crisis between it and other Arab nations attempting to isolate the energy-rich travel hub from the rest of the world.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi’s comments in an interview with The Associated Press came as Emirati officials also announced those offering support to Qatar online could face years in prison and fines for offering sympathy to the country, suggesting the crisis will only intensify.
“Qataris are questioning whether this is going to end up in seeing a change in leadership itself in Qatar,” Al Qassemi told the AP in his office in Sharjah, near Dubai. “So it is a very serious issue. Again, this is Qataris speaking to international media wondering whether this is possible at all.”
He added: “Doha now is completely isolated. Doha now needs to take serious steps very rapidly to placate not only their neighbors but also their allies around the world.”
Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were among those who joined Saudi Arabia on Monday in cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar. They alleged Qatar funds terror groups and has a worryingly close relationship with Iran, a nation with which it shares its vast offshore natural gas field.
Qatar long has denied funding extremists, and its foreign minister has struck a defiant tone in interviews, even after worried residents emptied grocery stores in its capital of Doha. Qatar relies heavily on food imports, especially those coming over its only land border with Saudi Arabia. The Arab countries have blocked Qatari vessels from entering their airspace, as well as using their seaports as Saudi Arabia has closed off its land border.
Among others joining them are Yemen’s internationally backed government, which has lost the capital and large portions of the war-torn country. The Maldives and one of conflict-ridden Libya’s competing governments also have joined them in cutting ties to Doha.
Late Tuesday night, the Jordanian government announced it was reducing its level of diplomatic representation in Qatar and canceling the local registration for Al-Jazeera TV. And on Wednesday, the African nation of Mauritania joined them.
Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has said it remains in regular contact with Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup. Qatar just finished one of the stadiums for the tournament, though others have yet to be built.
The Gulf countries have ordered their citizens out of Qatar and gave Qataris abroad 14 days to return home. The countries also said they would eject Qatar’s diplomats.
Qatar Airways, one of the region’s major long-haul carriers, has suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain until further notice. It has increasingly been sending flights over Iran and Turkey to avoid Saudi and Egyptian airspace.
Al Qassemi, who previously wrote a column describing steps Qatar would need to take, said that the crisis will only escalate if Doha doesn’t back down. He said Qatar needed to shut down or limit its Al-Jazeera news network, as well as stop funding extremist groups and others.
His comments took on further strength as the UAE’s Justice Ministry warned social media users that they can face three to 15 years in prison time and fines starting from 500,000 dirhams ($136,000) for offering sympathy for Qatar. The ministry quoted UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif Al-Shamsi on social media making the warning, saying it came over Qatar’s “hostile and reckless policy.”
While liberal compared to much of the Middle East, the UAE has tough cybercrime and slander laws under which people can be arrested, imprisoned and deported for taking photographs without the consent of those shown.
Al Qassemi also warned Qatar should not rely on hosting some 10,000 American troops at its Al-Udeid Air Base as protection against the Arab nations lined up against it. US President Donald Trump made a series of tweets Tuesday calling into question his commitment to the peninsular nation after earlier telling Qatar’s ruling emir that “we’ve been friends now for a long time.”
“The Qataris should not count on that base as being a guarantee of sort of American protection when it comes to conflict with Saudi Arabia,” Al Qassemi said. “I think the Americans would choose to side with Saudi Arabia over any other country in the region.”
 


Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

Updated 20 September 2019

Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

  • Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies
  • Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies

ALGIERS: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Algerian capital on Friday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country's army chief.
Demonstrators gathered near the capital's main post office square, the epicentre of Algeria's protest movement that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April, this time calling for the ouster of General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
"The people want the fall of Gaid Salah," the strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria, they chanted. "Take us all to prison, the people will not stop."
Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city centre and along its main avenues.
Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies.
The tougher line on protests came just days after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika's departure.
The army chief has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president's loyalists -- including Gaid Salah himself -- before any vote.
In the runup to the latest rally, as on previous Fridays, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.
Police stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.
As a police helicopter scoured the skies, security forces also stopped cars headed towards the city centre from its southwest entrance, where a dozen anti-riot police vans were stationed.
Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, condemned the heightened security measures as "illegal".
Demonstrations have officially been banned in Algiers since 2001 but the prohibition had been ignored since rallies started on February 22 against the ailing Bouteflika's bid for a fifth presidential term.