US attorney accuses Qatari royal of hiding from charges

Qatari Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani is facing charges he threatened to kill two former American employees who refused his orders to murder a critic. (Photo supplied)
Updated 29 October 2019

US attorney accuses Qatari royal of hiding from charges

  • Attorney Rebecca Castaneda files a motion in Florida court accusing Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani of ‘evading service’

A Florida attorney accused Qatari Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the playboy race-car driver and brother of Qatar’s equally powerful Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, of hiding and refusing to face charges he threatened to kill two former American employees who refused his orders to murder a critic.

Attorney Rebecca Castaneda filed a motion on Friday in the Tampa, Florida Middle District Court accusing Al-Thani of “evading service.” Castaneda asked Federal Judge Thomas P. Barber to give her more time to serve legal documents to Al-Thani requiring him to appear in court, in person, and to provide a deposition of his response to the charges.

Normally in a federal lawsuit, plaintiffs have 90 days to serve the legal documents to the defendants, in this case Al-Thani. Once served, the defendants must appear in court in person, or face court-imposed fines or judgments.

“I filed a motion asking the judge for an extension to serve, and in it I stated that they are evading service,” Castaneda said.

“The American legal system has rules of procedure that specifically address situations such as evasion of service or default judgment. If an individual or a company chooses to evade or ignore a lawsuit, it’s at their own peril. Changing a name on a passport, flying private planes instead of commercial, or trying to evade customs authorities – these things don’t make a lawsuit go away.”

Castaneda field the original lawsuit in July on behalf of two former employees who worked for Al-Thani’s companies, Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende.

Also named as defendants are Al-Thani’s company Geo Strategic Defense Solutions LLC (GSDS) and KH Holdings LLC alleging violations of the US Fair Labor Standards Act and violating US laws.

Castenda said that KH Holdings has been properly served but that the attorney representing Al-Thani, Aryeh Kaplan, refused to accept the legal service to appear in court asserting that they did not represent Al-Thani’s interests or his company GSDS. Kaplan is a partner of the Miami, Florida law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

Kaplan did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The lawsuit specifically alleges Pittard and Allende were threatened at gunpoint by Al-Thani when they refused his orders in September 2017 to murder two unnamed Americans who Al-Thani suspected sullied his social reputation.

The lawsuit claims Al-Thani’s threats against Pittard, a security professional, and Allende, a paramedic, continued to escalate.

When Al-Thani discovered that an American he had imprisoned at his luxury palace in Qatar had been freed by Pittard and Allende, he threatened Pittard saying, according to the lawsuit, “he would kill him, bury his body in the desert, and kill Pittard’s family.”

The unnamed American who was being held captive was first arrested on Al-Thani’s orders and jailed at the Onaiza Police Station in Doha, before being moved to Al-Thani’s residence.

Documents claim Allende scaled a five-foot security fence and an 18-foot wall to escape Al-Thani’s Qatari compound after he was allegedly threatened at gunpoint.

Brandishing a Glock 26 automatic pistol, Al-Thani demanded Pittard return the freed unnamed American citizen and provide information about his whereabouts or, Al-Thani told Pittard, he “would pay the price.”

Castaneda said the two Americans are seeking $33 million in damages to compensate for their inability to pursue their careers because of Al-Thani’s actions. Al-Thani interfered in Pittard’s work with a Qatar security, law enforcement, and arms brokerage contract that Pittard had negotiated with the Police Training Institute in Doha, Qatar.

Al-Thani “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.

Al-Thani is being sued personally, and against his two companies, GEO Strategic Defense Solutions LLC and KH Holdings LLC.

Castaneda said the judge has issued a summons for Al-Thani ordering him to appear in court. She said she expects the legal process to continue for many months adding that the case is “a long way from trial.”

Although the lawsuit focuses on an employment dispute and the firings, it details the intimidation and threats that Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani allegedly made.

Trump plan calls for Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem

Updated 28 January 2020

Trump plan calls for Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem

  • United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank
  • The absence of the Palestinians from Trump’s announcement is likely to fuel criticism that the plan tilts toward Israel

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, dependent on Palestinians taking steps to become self-governing, in an effort to achieve a peace breakthrough in their decades of conflict with Israel.
Senior administration officials, briefing Reuters on the plan the president announced at the White House, said that under Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan the United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.


Read the full report here: Middle East peace plan


In exchange, Israel would agree to accept a four-year freeze on new settlement activity while Palestinian statehood is negotiated.
“Today, Israel has taken a giant step toward peace,” Trump said as he announced the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, saying he also sent a letter about it to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“This is a historic day,” Netanyahu said, comparing Trump’s peace plan to former President Harry Truman’s 1948 recognition of the state of Israel. “On this day, you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage,” he added, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.
While Israeli leaders have welcomed Trump’s long-delayed plan, Palestinian leaders had rejected it even before its official release, saying his administration was biased toward Israel.
The absence of the Palestinians from Trump’s announcement is likely to fuel criticism that the plan tilts toward Israel’s needs rather than those of the Palestinians.

Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down in 2014, and it was far from clear that the Trump plan will resuscitate them.
US officials said they were braced for initial Palestinian skepticism but hoped that over time they will agree to negotiate. The plan places high hurdles for the Palestinians to overcome to reach their long-sought goal of a state.
It remains to be seen also how Israel responds, given the pressures its right-wing prime minister, Netanyahu, faces going into his third attempt at re-election in less than a year.
The US plan represented the most dramatic and detailed attempt to break the historic deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians in several years, the result of a three-year effort by Trump senior advisers Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz and former adviser Jason Greenblatt.
Trump has endorsed a proposed map outlining the two states, the officials said. The Palestinian state would be double the size of land that Palestinians currently control and would be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels, the official said.
Trump briefed Netanyahu and his rival in Israel’s March 2 elections, Blue and White Party chief Benny Gantz, in talks on Monday.
Asked what Washington was prepared to do to advance negotiations, the officials said it was up to the Palestinians to come forward and to say they are prepared to negotiate.
They said both Netanyahu and Gantz had said they were willing to support the effort.
Israeli leaders have agreed to negotiate on the basis of the Trump plan and agreed to the map, the officials said. Israel’s agreement on statehood for Palestinians is dependent on a security arrangement to protect Israelis, they said.
Israel will also take steps to ensure Muslim access to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and respect Jordan’s role regarding holy sites, the officials said.
Palestinian statehood would be dependent on Palestinians taking steps for self-government, such as respect for human rights, freedom of the press and having transparent and credible institutions, the officials said.
“In doing the map it’s incredibly difficult to try to create contiguity for a Palestinian state based on what’s happened over the past 25 years so if we don’t do this freeze now I think that their chance to ever have a state basically goes away,” said one official in reference to the growth of Jewish settlements.
“So what we’ve done is basically we’ve bought four more years for them to get their act together and try to negotiate a deal for them to become a state, and I think this is a huge opportunity for them,” the official said.
The official said the question for Palestinians is will they “come to the table and negotiate?“
If they agree to negotiate, there are some areas that can be compromised in the future, the official said without offering details.
Trump’s plan calls for Palestinians to be able to return to a future state of Palestine and creates a “generous compensation fund,” the official said.
About Israel retaining the settlements, a US official said: “The plan is based on a principle that people should not have to move to accomplish peace ... But it does stop future settlement expansion which we consider to be the most realistic approach.
“The notion that hundreds of thousands of people, or tens of thousands of people, are going to be removed either forcibly or not from their homes is just not worth entertaining,” the official said.
Before the Trump announcement, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza City and Israeli troops reinforced positions near a flashpoint site between the Palestinian city of Ramallah and the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank.
A Netanyahu spokesman said the Israeli leader would fly to Moscow on Wednesday to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on the proposals.
Palestinian leaders had said they were not invited to Washington, and that no plan could work without them.
On Monday Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said he would not agree to any deal that did not secure a two-state solution. That formula, the basis for many years of frustrated international peace efforts, envisages Israel co-existing with a Palestinian state.
Palestinians have refused to deal with the Trump administration in protest at such pro-Israeli policies as its moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whose eastern half the Palestinians seek for a future capital.
The Trump administration in November reversed decades of US policy when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer regarded the settlements on West Bank land as a breach of international law. Palestinians and most countries view the settlements as illegal, which Israel disputes.
Both Trump and Netanyahu face political challenges at home. Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives last month and is on trial in the Senate on abuse of power charges.
On Tuesday Netanyahu was formally indicted in court on corruption charges, after he withdrew his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Both men deny any wrongdoing.