Qatari officials accused of intimidation in terror case

Qatari officials accused of intimidation in terror case
Two wealthy Qataris have been accused of channelling funds to an Al-Qaeda affiliate during the Syrian civil war. Above, Doha’s skyline, Qatar. (Getty Images)
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Updated 12 November 2020

Qatari officials accused of intimidation in terror case

Qatari officials accused of intimidation in terror case
  • UK police asked to investigate claims that state sanctioned harassment of claimants, witnesses 
  • Doha Bank accused of handling money from Qatar for Al-Nusra Front during Syrian conflict

LONDON: Qatari state officials intimidated witnesses and claimants in a compensation claim brought by eight Syrian refugees against Doha Bank, the High Court in London was told on Wednesday.

The bank stands accused of helping handle finances from two clients, Qatari brothers Moutaz and Ramez Al-Khayyat, for the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist group active in the Syrian conflict until 2017, when it merged with several others to become Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS). 

The court was told that the brothers were acting on behalf of the Qatari state, possibly even the emir himself.

Doha Bank and the Al-Khayyat brothers deny any wrongdoing in the case brought by the Netherlands-based Syrians, who were able to bring action in the UK due to the bank having offices in London. The UK government has designated Al-Nusra and HTS as terrorist organizations.

Ben Emmerson QC, representing four of the refugees, accused Qatari officials of trying to “derail” the case.

“The administration of public justice in this country is under threat by the hostile act of a foreign nation,” he said.

Qatari officials were responsible for “harassment, intimidation, pressure, unlawful covert surveillance overseas, threatened visits by armed and masked men during the night, attempted bribery and criminal inducements,” he said, adding that the actions are believed to have been carried out on behalf of the state.

“The allegation in this case is that the Qatari state itself is responsible for funding (Al-Nusra) and has done so through the medium of the first two defendants (the Al-Khayyat brothers) and the companies they own, together with the accounts they hold at Doha Bank,” he said.

“The evidence suggests that the state of Qatar is engaged in a sustained campaign, sending multiple individuals to multiple locations over a long period of time, the object of which is to pervert the course of public justice in these proceedings, intimidate witnesses and to persuade the claimants to abandon their claim.”

UK counterterrorism police had been asked to investigate the accusations, Emmerson added. The claimants remain anonymous for security purposes.

Sonia Tolaney QC, representing Doha Bank, said there is a “real concern” that the claim is politically motivated.

“Qatar is a friendly foreign state to this country. This country should be careful before entertaining wild allegations about (Qatar) interfering in public justice,” she added.

A spokesperson for London’s Metropolitan Police said: “We can confirm that on Nov. 9 we received allegations relating to terrorism funding, perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation.

“These allegations are currently being scoped by officers from the Met’s counterterrorism command, with a view to determining whether there are grounds for a UK-based police investigation into these matters.”

Emmerson asked for a hearing into jurisdiction in the case to be delayed, with Doha Bank and other defendants saying it should be heard in Qatar.

Judge Rosalind Coe QC, summing up, agreed “reluctantly” to adjourn the case to allow for more evidence to be gathered in light of the severity of the allegations.


Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia
Updated 30 min 9 sec ago

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia

Hundreds protest police repression in Tunisia
  • Saturday’s protests come as the North African nation struggles to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic
  • The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) to 5 a.m. and banned gatherings until February 14

TUNIS: Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Tunisian cities on Saturday to protest police repression, corruption and poverty, following several nights of unrest marked by clashes and arrests.
Saturday’s protests come as the North African nation struggles to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has crippled the economy and threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
Over 6,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Tunisia, with a record 103 deaths reported on Thursday.
The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) to 5 a.m. and banned gatherings until February 14.
But protesters took to the streets in several parts of the country, including the capital Tunis and the marginalized interior region of Gafsa, to demand the release of hundreds of young people detained during several nights of unrest since January 14.
“Neither police nor Islamists, the people want revolution,” chanted demonstrators in a crowd of several hundred in Tunis, where one person was wounded in brief clashes amid a heavy police presence.
Protests were also held in the coastal city of Sfax on Friday.
Much of the unrest has been in working class neighborhoods, where anger is boiling over soaring unemployment and a political class accused of having failed to deliver good governance, a decade after the 2011 revolution that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Economic misery exacerbated by novel coronavirus restrictions in the tourism-reliant nation have pushed growing numbers of Tunisians to try to leave the country.
“The situation is catastrophic,” said Omar Jawadi, 33, a hotel sales manager, who has been paid only half his salary for months.
“The politicians are corrupt, we want to change the government and the system.”
The police have said more than 700 people were arrested over several nights of unrest earlier this week that saw young people hurl rocks and petrol bombs at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Human rights groups on Thursday said at least 1,000 people had been detained.
“Youth live from day to day, we no longer have hope, neither to work nor to study — and they call us troublemakers!” said call center worker Amine, who has a degree in aerospace engineering.
“We must listen to young people, not send police in by the thousands. The whole system is corrupt, a few families and their supporters control Tunisia’s wealth.”
Tunisia last week marked one decade since Ben Ali fled the country amid mass protests, ending 23 years in power.
Tunisia’s political leadership is divided, with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi waiting for parliament to confirm a major cabinet reshuffle announced last Saturday.