For months Qatar denied that members of the ruling family were imprisoned. The wife of Amir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s own cousin has just testified in Geneva before the UN.By Ian Hamel
The gas Emirate has handed over an old practice that was thought to be forgotten: that of punishing the whole family of the convicted person. Talal Abdulaziz al-Thani, born on 22 August 1968, is the Emir’s cousin. In 2007, he married Asma Arian, a German of Moroccan origin. The two have four children. On Talal’s passport, under the heading “occupation”, it is specified that he is a “member of the ruling family”. We can imagine that he is immensely rich. However, he has been languishing in a cell since 2013 for “debts”. A crime that earned him a 25-year prison sentence last year. His wife, aged 38, took the opportunity of a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva (6-17 May 2019) to denounce not only the imprisonment of her husband without serious reason, but also to reveal that she and her four children have also been repressed.
They found themselves overnight in an unhealthy shack, without air conditioning, on the outskirts of Doha. Without any means of transport to take the children to school. Without money to pay lawyers to defend her husband. And above all, without the advantages that automatically benefit all those who hold Qatari nationality. “We were denied everything for five years. We were humiliated. I had no choice but to flee Qatar,” she explains. Last year, she managed to leave the country with her four children to join her family in Germany. “But I am threatened and I live under the protection of the German police,” she asserts.
Talal’s imprisonment was revealed in October 2017 in the international press, but Doha resolutely denied it. At that time, there were not one but about twenty members of the al-Thani family imprisoned. Their crimes? Not belonging to the right branch of the al-Thani. Talal’s grandfather, Ahmad bin Ali al-Thani, father of independence, was overthrown in 1972 by his cousin Khalifa bin Hamed al-Thani, the grandfather of the current Emir. Since the break-up of diplomatic relations between Qatar and its neighbours, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, the Emirate has used any pretext (debts or drug trafficking) to throw in jail those among the members of the princely family who are suspected of being able to make deals with “the enemy”. According to his relatives, the extremely heavy penalty imposed on Prince Talal is justified, in fact, by his hostility to the support that the Qatari authorities bring to the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review considered the situation of 14 States, including Qatar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, North Korea, Brunei and Equatorial Guinea. Countries where democracy is not the main characteristic. Once again, the Emirate was criticised for its treatment of foreign workers. He has also been accused of supporting media that propagate “hatred and violence”, and, in other words, of not putting much energy into combating terrorism.