Wife of Qatar’s detained Sheikh Talal makes desperate plea to UN

Sheikh Talal's wife says Qatari authorities tricked him into a debt default and locked him up for 22 years. (Screengrab)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Wife of Qatar’s detained Sheikh Talal makes desperate plea to UN

  • Asma Arian, wife of Sheikh Talal bin Abdul Al-Thani, appealed at the UN Human Rights Council for her husband's release
  • Statement coincides with report on arbitrary detention that strongly criticizes Qatar

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.


Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

Updated 31 October 2020

Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

  • Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms
  • Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces prevented the arrival of hundreds of protesters at the French ambassador’s residence and the French Embassy in Lebanon on Friday.

They feared the recurrence of riots similar to the ones that erupted in front of the Danish Embassy in Ashrafieh, Beirut, in 2006, and led to 28 people being injured, damage to storefronts, and the burning of the consulate building and terrorizing of people.

A few hundred worshippers left mosques after Friday prayers and marched to defend the Prophet Muhammad.

Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms.

Khaldoun Qawwas, Dar Al-Fatwa’s media spokesperson, told Arab News: “These groups have nothing to do with Dar Al-Fatwa, which has already announced its position regarding what happened in France in two separate statements.”

Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan, the grand mufti of Lebanon, in a statement issued a week earlier, said that “freedom of opinion and expression does not entail insulting the beliefs and symbols of others, and this requires a reconsideration of the concept of absolute freedom.”

He stressed the “renunciation of violence and confrontation of radicalism and terrorism that has no religion or race.”

Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut, since the embassy and the French ambassador’s residence are located where roads leading to the city’s western and eastern neighborhoods intersect. This led to a huge traffic jam in the capital.

The protest’s starting point was the Gamal Abdel Nasser Mosque in Al-Mazraa, situated only a few kilometers from the Residence des Pins (Pine Residence).

Three major security checkpoints — one set up by the riot police — separated the Residence des Pins and protesters, some of whom were transported by buses from the north of Lebanon to Beirut.

Protesters held Islamic signs and chanted slogans denouncing France, its President Emmanuel Macron and its former colonization of the country. Some protesters tried to remove barbed wire and threw stones, water bottles and batons at the security forces. Another group burned the French flag. Security forces responded by throwing tear gas canisters, leading to the retreat of the protesters.

In a statement, Lebanon’s Supreme Council of the Roman Catholic condemned “the terrorist attack in the French city of Nice.”

The council considered that “this terrorist crime has nothing to do with Islam and Muslims. It is an individual act carried out by terrorists haunted by radicalism, obscurantism and the rejection of the French people’s historical civilizational values. Through their acts, they abuse the spirit of tolerance, coexistence, acceptance of the other and the freedom of thought and belief which all religions call for.”

The council called for “staying away from defaming religions and beliefs and inciting hate and resentment among people, raising the voice of moderation, wisdom and reason, working together in the spirit of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together announced by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb from the UAE last year.”

During the Friday sermon, Grand Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan condemned “any criminal act against any people, including the French people.” He added: “We categorically reject what happened in Nice yesterday, strongly condemn it and consider it a blatant and insolent attack on Muslims before others.”

He simultaneously condemned “the official French position that affronted the Prophet, took lightly and made light of the feelings of millions of Muslims.”