Eyewitness comes forward against Qatari royal accused of murder

Eyewitness comes forward against Qatari royal accused of murder
Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani
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Updated 09 May 2020

Eyewitness comes forward against Qatari royal accused of murder

Eyewitness comes forward against Qatari royal accused of murder
  • Three more plaintiffs who worked for brother of Qatari Emir have joined a lawsuit that details a campaign of violence, abuse and intimidation by playboy race-car driver

CHICAGO: Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani, the brother of Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, is alleged to have “personally murdered” an employee who insulted his wife in a planned new lawsuit that will allege a history of violence and threats.

Attorney Rebecca Castañeda said the original lawsuit she filed in 2019 that detailed Sheikh Khaled’s violent behavior and threats against two American contractors is being expanded to include three more Americans who allege “even worse violence” that also includes threats to kill a head of the American sports racing industry.

Castañeda said after forcing Sheikh Khaled’s attorneys to respond  to the lawsuit in November — satisfying the US federal court requirement that defendants be “served” — she sought out other individuals who work for or had worked for Sheikh Khaled, saying that she had information regarding other crimes.


“Between the five plaintiffs, we have a total of seven solicitations for murder. One of the plaintiffs watched the sheikh murder someone in front of him and (the sheikh) actually asked him to assist in the murder. He said no. We also have additional weapons solicitations,” Castañeda said, referring to the impending lawsuit.

“He (Sheikh Khaled) murdered a fellow employee in front of one of the plaintiffs who is filing suit. He asked the plaintiff to actively participate in the murder.”

Sheikh Khaled had previously been accused of threatening to kill several people including his employees who refused his orders, Castañeda said.

Castañeda said that the murder victim was “an Indian employee.” Sheikh Khaled’s wife became angry after the employee failed to pick her up from shopping at an agreed time.

“The sheikh’s wife apparently felt slighted that an employee did not pick her up on time. The employee was murdered. The suit will allege the timeline for that and how that happened, and the terror the plaintiff felt in being involved,” Castañeda said.

“This took place in Qatar, so you have an American citizen in a foreign country with a foreign royal. You can imagine that your chances and your opportunity for escape are zero percent. There are no other options. The plaintiff witnessed that employee’s abuse and eventual murder.”

The new lawsuit will also detail how Sheikh Khaled, the owner of Al-Anabi Racing USA LLC, based in Massachusetts, sought to have one of his racing industry rivals killed.

“The sheikh asked one of the plaintiffs to murder the head of a US racing car organization,” said Castañeda, noting Sheikh Khaled races cars in international competitions.

In another instance, made by one of the three new plaintiffs, the lawsuit will detail how Sheikh Khaled ordered a rival sheikh in Bahrain be targeted in a hacking operation.

“That sheikh was successfully hacked — business websites, personal emails and computer servers,” said Castañeda.

Castañeda described the Bahraini sheikh targeted by Sheikh Khaled as “a personal enemy, someone the sheikh deals with in a competition sense (racing).”

She said that the names of all victims and targets will be identified when the new lawsuit is filed. The five plaintiffs are American, she said. Two of the new plaintiffs are former military contractors who worked for Sheikh Khaled, like Pittard, while the third new plaintiff worked for the American government.

Castañeda described Sheikh Khaled as “someone who has never been held accountable for his actions, and probably moves through life thinking the future will be the same. We’re here to tell him that is not the case.”

 

New sources step forward

The attorney said she had asked for information on Sheikh Khaled on Twitter and was surprised by the response. She vetted and interviewed the individuals, and added three to the lawsuit who will be identified when formal filing takes place.

“About January, we had more information that was coming in. I had previously done a pubic Twitter video stating that if anybody had information they wanted to share, whether they work for him, had worked for him, or just have information, please let us know, it will remain confidential,” Castañeda said.

“Several people contacted my office. We had some anonymous emails from people who didn’t want to be named that shared information, and then we had people who did want to be named and were willing to share their information publicly.”

Castañeda added: “It has become clear to me over the past several months that people are scared of somebody who has financial resources and the ability to take whatever actions they want. The lawsuit includes physical abuse, emotional abuse and basic power.”

She said that in February 2020, after the original lawsuit was withdrawn, Matthew Allende’s girlfriend was viciously assaulted in her home.

Castañeda said that she could not confirm the brutal rape and assault is linked to the lawsuit, but insisted the legal fight to hold Sheikh Khaled accountable for his misdeeds will not be discouraged by any intimidation.

 

First lawsuit flushed out Sheikh Khaled

The new revelations expand allegations detailed in the original lawsuit, filed on July 23, 2019, of how Sheikh Khaled threatened two employees Matthew Pittard and Matthew Allende. The two former employees worked for Sheikh Khaled’s companies and allege they were threatened at gunpoint when they refused orders in September 2017 to kill two unnamed Americans.

Sheikh Khaled had also claimed the targets had sullied “his social reputation.” When Pittard, a security professional, and Allende, a paramedic, refused, Sheikh Khaled imprisoned them and threatened to have them killed, too.

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

The unnamed American captive was first arrested on Sheikh Khaled’s orders and jailed at the Onaiza police station in Doha before being moved to the sheikh’s residence.

Documents claim Allende scaled a two-meter security fence and a six-meter wall in order to escape from Sheikh Khaled’s Qatari compound after he was allegedly threatened at gunpoint.

Brandishing a Glock 26 automatic pistol, Sheikh Khaled demanded Pittard return the freed American or provide information on his whereabouts. If Pittard refused, Sheikh Khaled allegedly told him that he “would pay the price.”

“We have not refiled the lawsuit yet, but we will shortly,” Castañeda said. “We have continued our investigation and built additional complaints for three other men who have come forward who also worked for Sheikh Khaled.”

After temporarily withdrawing the lawsuit in January, Castañeda sought out other individuals who had similar allegations regarding Sheikh Khaled and spent four months researching the details.

Now that Sheikh Khaled has been “served” in the original lawsuit, he will not be able to duck or dodge the new lawsuit, Castañeda said.

“We are working on serving him (with the lawsuit). Obviously, as an international defendant, it is difficult. It is not the same as serving an American individual with corporate offices,” she said.

At least another five companies are also being added to the lawsuit.

 

 

•• Anyone who is working or has worked for Sheikh Khaled who wants to share information about his abuses can email Rebecca Castaneda in confidence to [email protected], or to call 813-708-7018. 


UN reiterates it is not involved in Syrian presidential election

A poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad hangs along an alley in Damascus on April 21, 2021. (AFP/LOUAI BESHARA)
A poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad hangs along an alley in Damascus on April 21, 2021. (AFP/LOUAI BESHARA)
Updated 22 April 2021

UN reiterates it is not involved in Syrian presidential election

A poster depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad hangs along an alley in Damascus on April 21, 2021. (AFP/LOUAI BESHARA)
  • Comments came after Syria’s parliament confirmed Bashar Assad will run for re-election in next month’s poll
  • Secretary-general’s spokesman said the vote is not part of the political process set by Security Council resolution

NEW YORK: The UN on Wednesday reiterated that it is not involved in the upcoming Syrian elections and has “no mandate to be.”

In came after the Syrian parliament announced on Wednesday that President Bashar Assad will run for re-election on May 26 in what will be the second presidential election held during the decade-long civil war in the country.

“(Syria’s) elections have been called under the auspices of the current constitution and they’re not part of the political process established under Resolution 2254,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “For our part, we will continue to stress the importance of a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Syria.

“Resolution 2254 mandates the UN to facilitate a political process that culminates in the holding of free and fair elections in accordance with a new constitution, administered under UN supervision to the highest international standards, and that are inclusive of all Syrians including members of the diaspora.”

Pressed on whether or not his comment means the UN does not consider the elections to be free and fair, Dujarric said: “I think my words on Syria were pretty clear,” and reiterated his previous comments.

Geir Pedersen, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, has been working to support efforts to draft a new constitution as part of the political process aimed at ending the war and ensuring free and fair elections, supervised by the UN, in which all Syrians can vote, including refugees.

During a Security Council briefing last month, however, he acknowledged that due to a lack of “true engagement” by the Syrian regime, the political process has not succeeded in bringing about any tangible changes as yet, nor has it led to the adoption of a vision of the future for Syrians.

He said “free and fair elections” based on the provisions of Security Council Resolution 2254 still “seem far into the future.”

Assad has been accused by Western countries, including members of the Security Council, of deliberately delaying the drafting of a new constitution to avoid UN-supervised elections.

Last month Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the permanent US representative to the UN, asked the international community to “not be fooled by upcoming Syrian presidential elections. These elections will neither be free nor fair. They will not legitimize the Assad regime. They do not meet the criteria laid out in Resolution 2254, including that they be supervised by the UN or conducted pursuant to a new constitution.”

Barbara Woodward, the British envoy to the UN, said the UK “stands with the Syrian people to deliver all the steps enshrined in Resolution 2254: a nationwide ceasefire; unhindered aid access; the release of those arbitrarily detained; conditions for safe refugee return; and free and fair elections pursuant to a new constitution — all of which represent the only way out of this conflict.”


Iran sets trial for two imprisoned dual nationals

Iran sets trial for two imprisoned dual nationals
Updated 21 April 2021

Iran sets trial for two imprisoned dual nationals

Iran sets trial for two imprisoned dual nationals
  • British-Iranian labor rights activist Raoof and German-Iranian national Taghavi are being held in solitary confinement and are due in court next Wednesday
  • Multiple reports suggest Tehran is using cases to increase pressure before next stage of Iran nuclear deal talks in Vienna

LONDON: Iran has set trial dates for British-Iranian labor rights activist Mehran Raoof and German-Iranian national Nahid Taghavi, who are due to appear before judges on Wednesday in separate cases, the UK-based newspaper The Guardian reported.

Raoof, 64, a former teacher in London, has been held in solitary confinement for more than five months in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after he was secretly recorded talking about politics in a cafe, human rights campaigners have revealed.

Taghavi, 66, a retired architect who has diabetes, was arrested last October during a crackdown on women’s and labor rights campaigners. She has also been held in solitary confinement at Evin and will be tried before the revolutionary court, her daughter, Miriam, told The Guardian.

Multiple reports suggest that Tehran is using these two cases, in particular, to increase the pressure before the next stage of talks on the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, in Vienna.

Both Germany and the UK are supposed to be involved in the nuclear deal talks in Vienna, which are due to resume next week. Both countries backed the 2015 deal with France, Russia, China and the US. Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the pact three years later.

Amnesty International said Raoof is an arbitrarily detained “prisoner of conscience,” and expressed concern that he could be given a sentence of up to 16 years.

Taghavi appeared before a judge last week after six months in pretrial detention and the charges against her remain unclear.

Martin Lessenthin, of the International Society for Human Rights, said Taghavi is “innocent and has no chance to get a fair trial.” He said her lawyers have not accessed her files and that she is a victim of “political hostage-taking and the arbitrary judicial system of Iran.”


Iran adds advanced machines at underground enrichment plant - IAEA

Iran adds advanced machines at underground enrichment plant - IAEA
Updated 22 April 2021

Iran adds advanced machines at underground enrichment plant - IAEA

Iran adds advanced machines at underground enrichment plant - IAEA

VIENNA: Iran has installed extra advanced centrifuges at its underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and plans to add even more, a report by the UN atomic watchdog on Wednesday showed, deepening Iran’s breaches of its nuclear deal with major powers.
The report is the latest evidence that Iran is pressing ahead with the installation of the advanced machines, even though it is not allowed to use them to produce enriched uranium under the 2015 agreement.
The accord only lets Iran produce enriched uranium at its underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz with first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which are far less efficient than the advanced models.
“On 21 April 2021, the Agency verified at FEP that: ... six cascades of up to 1,044 IR-2m centrifuges; and two cascades of up to 348 IR-4 centrifuges ... were installed, of which a number were being used,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report to member states said, referring to the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. The report was seen by Reuters.
According to a previous report, the IAEA verified on March 31 that Iran was using 696 IR-2m machines and 174 IR-4 machines at the FEP.
Wednesday’s report also said Iran informed the IAEA that it plans to install four more cascades, or clusters, of IR-4 centrifuges at the FEP, where both of the IR-4 cascades it had planned have now been installed.
Meanwhile, the European parties to the agreement have seen progress in the first two rounds of indirect US-Iran negotiations to revive the deal but said on Wednesday that there were still major hurdles to overcome. The United States withdrew from the accord in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Grant McCool)


Lebanese judge continues to defy ban on currency-trading investigation

Lebanese judge continues to defy ban on currency-trading investigation
Updated 21 April 2021

Lebanese judge continues to defy ban on currency-trading investigation

Lebanese judge continues to defy ban on currency-trading investigation
  • Judge Ghada Aoun staged a third raid on the offices of Mecattaf, a day after the Supreme Judicial Council referred her to the Judicial Inspection Authority
  • If she persists in defying judicial decisions she could be referred to the Disciplinary Council and face prosecution, a source told Arab News

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge on Wednesday raided the offices of Mecattaf money exchange company in Awkar for a third time, a day after the Supreme Judicial Council referred her to the Judicial Inspection Authority (JIA).

Judge Ghada Aoun, Mount Lebanon’s public prosecutor, was accompanied by supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). She was previously dismissed from an investigation into possible breaches of currency export rules.

“What is happening is a rebellion that will duly be dealt with,” a judicial source told Arab News.

Other sources revealed that the head of the JIA, Judge Barkan Saad, called Aoun as she was forcing her way into the business’s premises and asked her to leave, but she refused to comply.

“What Judge Aoun is doing goes against the statements she made during her hearing before the Supreme Judicial Council and this is unacceptable,” the judicial source said.

“We will act accordingly and she could be referred to the Disciplinary Council, meaning that she could be prosecuted, because what she is doing falls under the judges’ crimes section. If the judiciary moves forward with this measure, she will be prosecuted by the prosecutor general.”

Mecattaf is one of the largest money and gold-trading companies in Lebanon. Aoun arrived at its offices in Awkar, Beirut, with her bodyguards, who are members of State Security, and broke the locks on metal gates at the entrance as her supporters cheers and shouted: “May God be with you, Ghada Aoun.”

They sat on the ground in the yard outside the building while Aoun entered it accompanied by a financial expert. The Internal Security Forces cleared the yard of protesters but allowed them to remain on the street outside.

Journalists were prevented from accompanying Aoun into the building but before she did so she told them: “I was prohibited from entering the company with my car, so I entered on foot. I was not allowed to enter because the company’s data exposes the people that smuggled their money abroad. I ask the judiciary to stand with me because these are the rights of the people, not my own.

“What was issued by the Supreme Judicial Council is just a statement, not a decision, and I have yet to be informed of it. Preventing me from entering with my car is a recognized crime and I call on the security forces and the president to intervene.”

Lebanon’s prosecutor general, Ghassan Oueidat, previously transferred the financial-transactions case that Aoun was handling to Judge Samer Lishaa. Aoun refused to abide by the decision and continued her investigation. She is backed politically by President Michel Aoun and his political bloc, represented by the FPM.

There are fears that the issue will become a political battle that will lead the international community to believe that while some officials are trying to fight corruption in Lebanon, others are attempting to prevent this.

“Judge Aoun is saying that Mecattaf Company possesses data with the names of all those who smuggled their money abroad before the decision to block deposits in dollars in Lebanese banks was issued in 2019,” a judicial source told Arab News. “However Michel Mecattaf, the director and one of the company’s shareholders, confirmed that his company is abiding by the Code of Money and Credit, meaning that it is subject to banking secrecy.”

Mecattaf has also stated that he is following the law “and a witness in this case, not a suspect.”

Groups of Judge Aoun’s supporters, using the names United Alliance and Cry of the Depositors, issued a statement in which they said: “Mecattaf’s representatives and the employees of his company are suspiciously refusing to hand over the remaining data, bearing in mind that the data extracted so far shows loopholes in the chains of (US dollar) transactions abroad during a crucial period from before the October Revolution in late 2019 to early 2020.

“This has pushed Judge Aoun to head to the company’s headquarters again, as the requests of the financial expert to obtain the accounting records and the documents related to money transactions were denied.”

In February last year, Mecattaf said that “shipping (of currency) is done under prior authorization from the Central Bank and under the supervision of the Banking Control Commission. The money we ship is ours, whether in dollars, pounds sterling or euros.

“So if we want to ship money abroad from Lebanon, we buy it as a commodity and transfer it aboard. Most importantly, money shipping is done exclusively from and to a banking or financial institution. There are no limits to shipping but we are not allowed to transfer money to a third party.”

Mecattaf also said: “Since the beginning of 2019, I have been receiving more than 100 calls daily from most of the politicians, bankers and rich people, asking me to transfer their money abroad. This went on for months.

“Carrying out such a thing is very difficult. It cannot be done unless a large majority of bank directors and employees are a part of it,” otherwise transactions that violate rules will not go unnoticed, he added.


Egypt-Libya direct flights resume, key pacts signed

Egypt-Libya direct flights resume, key pacts signed
Updated 21 April 2021

Egypt-Libya direct flights resume, key pacts signed

Egypt-Libya direct flights resume, key pacts signed
  • Egyptian PM Mostafa Madbouly and Abdel-Hamid Al-Dabaiba, the head of the Libyan National Unity Government, oversaw the signing of 11 documents to enhance cooperation
  • Mostafa Madbouly: Egypt’s Ministry of Aviation has issued instructions to allow the immediate reception of flights from Libya at Cairo airport

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has announced the return of direct flights to Libya from Wednesday after high-level meetings in Tripoli.

He has also announced a plan to ensure the return of Egyptian workers to Libya to contribute to its reconstruction and development.

During his visit to the capital, Madbouly and Abdel-Hamid Al-Dabaiba, the head of the Libyan National Unity Government, oversaw the signing of 11 documents to enhance cooperation.

Egypt’s Ministry of Aviation has issued instructions to allow the immediate reception of flights from Libya at Cairo airport, Madbouly said.

He added that the parties agreed to reopen the Egyptian Embassy and Consulate in Libya after Eid Al-Fitr.

He said the return of direct flights from Libyan airports to Cairo “is an important factor for cooperation in other economic fields.”

The agreements included deals on cooperation in transport, implementing road and infrastructure projects, and cooperation in the health sector.

Other agreements were signed on investment in international connectivity, raising capacities in the fiber optic system.

Libya and Egypt issued a joint declaration at the end of Madbouly’s high-level visit, highlighting discussions on political and economic issues of common interest.

The two sides emphasized the importance of continued coordination and the possibility of unifying their positions on several issues. They stressed the importance of Libya’s protection of its sovereignty over its territories, political unity, and independence.

Both leaders showed determination to facilitate the political process ahead of Libya’s general elections on Dec. 24.