An exiled Qatari ruling family member once promoted by Saudi Arabia amid its ongoing dispute with Doha appeared in an online video Sunday claiming he's being held against his will in the United Arab Emirates, an allegation denied by Abu Dhabi.
The video of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, a little-known ruling family member until the boycott of Qatar by four Arab nations, offered new fuel to the months long stalemated crisis. It immediately recalled the bizarre, now-reversed resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri while on a trip Riyadh, a Nov. 4 decision that was widely perceived as Saudi-orchestrated at the time.
The UAE's state-run WAM news agency later said Sheikh Abdullah had freely left the country "at his request."
The video, immediately aired by Doha-based news network Al-Jazeera, shows Sheikh Abdullah saying he was invited to Abu Dhabi as a guest of "Sheikh Mohammed." Sheikh Abdullah appears to refer to Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who enjoys strong ties to Saudi Arabia's rulers.
"I am a guest of Sheikh Mohammed but it is not hosting now, it is now an imprisonment," Sheikh Abdullah says. "They told me not to leave and I am afraid something will happen to me and they blame Qatar."
He adds: "I just wanted to let you know that Qatar is innocent in this and I am being hosted by Sheikh Mohammed and anything that happens to me after this is under his responsibility."
The UAE, one of four countries boycotting Qatar, denied the claim. Authorities pointed to a series of tweets by Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi, who heads Abu Dhabi's Hedayah counter-extremism center. Al-Nuaimi said that Sheikh Abdullah had asked to move to the Emirates for his "safety."
"A trusted source confirmed to me that Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani is free to leave the UAE for any destination he chooses and he can leave whenever he likes," al-Nuaimi wrote on Twitter, without elaborating.
The report on the WAM news agency said Sheikh Abdullah was "free in his movements" while in the UAE.
"He expressed his desire to leave the country where all procedures were facilitated without any interference," WAM said. It did not say where the sheikh went.
Doha promised to "closely" observe the situation, though it acknowledges it is limited by the boycott, Qatar Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lolwa al-Khater said.
"We have observed in the past similar behavior by the blockading nations where rights of individuals and officials alike are violated in total contravention of international norms, conventions and laws with no clear purpose or valid reasoning," she said in a statement.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team