LONDON: The wife of a Qatari royal languishing in a Doha prison made a desperate appeal to the UN Human Rights Council Monday for her husband’s release.
Sheikh Talal bin Abdul Al-Thani, a grandson of the former emir Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali Al-Thani, has been in prison for seven years.
His wife, Asma Arian, says he has been tortured and ill-treated by the Qatari authorities and denied medical care as his health deteriorates.
She delivered a statement to the Geneva-based council on a report by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Qatar, which it visited last year.
“He’s been arbitrarily detained in Qatar for over seven years — years of suffering for our children and me, and torture and despair for him,” Arian, who lives in Germany with her four children, said.
“He’s in incommunicado detention and suffers from severe medical conditions he developed in prison.
“My husband needs urgent medical care and a lawyer he chooses freely.”
Arian says her husband was detained in 2013 after he requested his inheritance from the government. She said Sheikh Talal was duped into signing security checks that it said would underwrite commercial projects through which he would be paid.
“Their projects proved fictitious, designed to trap my husband in fabricated charges of defaulting on his debts,” she said.
He was given a 22 year prison sentence without a proper trial.
The UN working group’s report explicitly criticized Doha for imprisoning large numbers of people for defaulting on debt and the use of “guarantee cheques” to secure loans.
“We call on Qatar to abide by the recommendations of the working group and release my husband immediately, and respect his rights while he’s in detention,” Arian said.
The report made a series of recommendations for Qatar, including raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 and abolishing the system of male guardianship over women.
Sheikh Talal’s plight has been linked to the decades of infighting within the Qatari royal family.
His grandfather, who reigned from 1960 until 1972, was deposed by his cousin Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, grandfather of Qatar’s current emir, Sheikh Tamim.