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Call for transparency over Qatar’s prosecution of terror backers

Past trials weren’t publicised as to ‘avoid embarrassment to the families’ but critics say this needs to change

Gulf News

Washington: Qatari authorities are claiming that they have prosecuted five people accused by the US and the United Nations of financing terrorists but critics, including conservative think-tanks such as the Washington-based Foundation for Defence of Democracies, say that trials should be publicised to serve as a deterrent, and to provide transparency to make sure the punishment fits the crime.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Arab countries severed ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the country of funding Islamist extremists and cosying up to Iran.

But whether by choice or because of the Saudi-led action, there are signs Qatar is becoming more vocal about clamping down on these financiers.

The five men appear in the US Treasury sanctions lists and were tried in 2015 and 2016, according to two Western officials and a Qatari official, who have direct knowledge of the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorised to disclose the information publicly. The legal action wasn’t announced to avoid embarrassing the men’s families — some of whom are among the most prominent in the country, the Qatari official said.

Asked about one of the men at a press conference in Paris on Monday, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammad Al Thani confirmed the steps taken.

The man “has been prosecuted in the state of Qatar, by the law of the state of Qatar, and he’s on the international list, and he’s sanctioned by the state of Qatar”, Al Thani said.

The revelation of these prosecutions now is unlikely to sway the Saudi-led coalition, which last week named 59 individuals and 12 organisations it considers to be involved in terrorism and most, it said, with ties to Qatar. They include Egypt-born cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Qatar Charity, which implements aid projects with UN agencies.

Some of the men were put in jail or under house arrest in Qatar, while others were acquitted but are banned from travel and are under 24-hour surveillance, the officials claimed. Qatar is also bringing charges against two more people included on both the US and Saudi alliance lists, they said.

The assets of those convicted have been frozen, the officials said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that Qatar’s Emir Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani has made progress in halting financial support for and expelling terrorists, “but he must do more and he must do it quickly”.

Four of the five men prosecuted in Qatar have allegedly moved cash for Al Qaida since the early 2000s, according to US and UN statements.

Recidivism has been an issue, with some who were arrested and released by Qatari authorities in the past repeating the crimes. One is accused of providing funds to Iran-based Al Qaida operatives from 2009 to 2012.