Brother of Qatari emir accused of plotting double murder

Matthew Pittard, a security professional, claims he was threatened at gunpoint in September 2017 after refusing to carry out Sheikh Khaled’s orders to murder an unnamed man and woman. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 29 October 2019

Brother of Qatari emir accused of plotting double murder

  • Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani is accused of ordering a member of security to carry out a murder
  • The sheikh is also accused of imprisoning an American in his palace in Qatar

Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, ordered a member of his security staff to murder two people, according to a lawsuit filed by two former employees.

It was submitted to a Florida court on July 23 by Matthew Pittard, a security professional, and Matthew Allende, who was hired to be a round-the-clock medic for Sheikh Khaled, a racing-car driver. 

Pittard claims that he was threatened at gunpoint in September 2017 after refusing to carry out Sheikh Khaled’s orders to murder an unnamed man and woman the sheikh said were threats to his social reputation. The incident is said to have happened in Los Angeles, California.

The following year, according to the lawsuit, Sheikh Khaled imprisoned an American in his palace in Qatar. The unnamed captive was arrested on Sheikh Khaled’s orders and held at for a time at Onaiza Police Station in Doha, as well as at his residence, it is claimed.

When he discovered that Pittard had helped the captive escape, the sheikh told him “he would kill him, bury his body in the desert, and kill Pittard’s family,” it is alleged. Pittard said Sheikh Khaled threatened him with a Glock 26 automatic pistol and ordered him to reveal the whereabouts of the American or “pay the price.” He was later fired.

According to the court documents, Allende was also threatened with a gun, and forced to work long hours with little time off. He eventually climbed a 2-meter security fence and jumped from the top of a 6-meter wall to escape Sheik Khaled’s Qatari compound after he was refused permission to leave for a previously arranged day off.

“There is no circumstance in any country where asking someone to execute two people on someone’s behalf is appropriate,” said lawyer Rebecca Lynn Castaneda, who is representing Pittard and Allende. “It’s not OK. It’s not acceptable. It’s illegal. It’s pretty egregious. Pittard and Allende said there were several situations in which they were put by the defendant that were totally inappropriate.”

She said her clients are seeking $33 million in damages because Sheikh Khaled’s  actions prevented them from pursuing their careers, including interference in a security, law-enforcement and arms-brokerage contract Pittard had negotiated with the Police Training Institute in Doha. Sheikh Khaled is being sued personally, and his two companies, GEO Strategic Defense Solutions and KH Holdings are also named in the lawsuit.

Sheikh Khaled “created an environment of fear and intimidation. Defendant’s behavior has gone beyond a term of employment and intentionally extended into Pittard’s business and personal and professional lives,” the lawsuit claims.

Castaneda said the judge had issued a summons ordering Sheikh Khaled to appear in court. She said she expected the legal process to continue for many months and the case is “a long way from trial.”


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.