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

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

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.


1,000 arrested, troops deployed as Tunisia erupts in new riots

1,000 arrested, troops deployed as Tunisia erupts in new riots
Updated 19 January 2021

1,000 arrested, troops deployed as Tunisia erupts in new riots

1,000 arrested, troops deployed as Tunisia erupts in new riots
  • Teenage protesters clash with security forces amid economic slump 10 years after revolution

JEDDAH: More than 1,000 people have been arrested and troops have been deployed after three nights of rioting in cities throughout Tunisia.
Protesters gathered in central Tunis on Monday chanting “we came in the daytime” after the interior ministry said legitimate demonstrations did not take place at night.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohamed Zikri said the army had deployed reinforcements in Bizerte in the north, Sousse in the east and Kasserine and Siliana in central Tunisia.
The Interior Ministry said 632 people were arrested on Sunday alone, mainly “groups of people between the ages of 15 and 20 who burned tires and bins in order to block movements by the security forces.”
Some of those arrested had thrown stones at police and clashed with security forces, ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni said.
“This has nothing to do with protest movements that are guaranteed by the law and the constitution,” he said. “Protests take place in broad daylight normally ... without any criminal acts involved.”
The protests follow the 10th anniversary of a revolution that brought democracy but few material gains for most Tunisians, and anger is growing at chronic joblessness and poor state services.
The unrest began when Tunisia imposed a nationwide lockdown to halt a rise in coronavirus infections on the same day it marked the 10th anniversary of dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s fall from power.
Many Tunisians are increasingly angered by poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proved unable to govern coherently a decade on from the 2011 revolution. GDP shrank by 9 percent last year, consumer prices have soared and a third of young people are unemployed. The key tourism sector, already on its knees after a string of terrorist attacks in 2015, has been devastated by the pandemic.
In Bourguiba Avenue, the tree-lined boulevard in central Tunis flanked by government offices and colonial-era buildings where the biggest protests in 2011 took place, demonstrators on Monday said they wanted people arrested in recent days to be released.
“They call everyone who protests against the system a thief ... we have come with exposed faces by day and not by night to say we want jobs ... we want dignity,” said Sonia, an unemployed graduate.
Demonstrators with her chanted “No fear, no fear! The street belongs to the people!”
Protesters also gathered in Manzel Bouzaine, near the interior city of Sidi Bouzid where the self-immolation of a street fruit seller in late 2010 triggered the revolution.
The health crisis and economic misery have pushed many Tunisians to try to leave the country.
“I don’t see any future here,” said Abdelmoneim, a waiter in Tunis.
He blamed the violence on failed politicians and said the rioters were “bored adolescents.” Abdelmoneim said he would take a boat across the Mediterranean to Europe “as soon as possible, and never come back to this miserable place.”