The British government has been urged to challenge Doha over its alleged support for terrorism after the Qatari prime minister was photographed at a family wedding of one of the world’s leading terror financiers.
Photos published in The National and in other newspapers showed Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Qatari Premier and Interior Minister, standing alongside Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi at the wedding of his son on April 11, just weeks after the country had added him to its terrorism list. Hamas leader Khaled Mishaal, who has been living in Qatar for more than a decade, was also pictured at the ceremony.
The images provoked outrage across social media and among security experts, who said the pictures called into question Qatar’s commitment to targeting terror suspects and those who finance extremism.
In a letter to Britain's Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, The Telegraph reported that Conservative member of Parliament Zac Goldsmith warned: "We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to Qatar's behaviour." He also pointed to a string of "inconsistencies" and "worrying questions" raised by Qatar's response to the wedding photographs.
Mr Goldsmith's intervention came after the Qatari government issued a statement last month to The Telegraph that the prime minister's attendance at the wedding was in a "personal" capacity. The statement claimed that Mr Al Nuaimi had his assets frozen and was placed under a travel ban since 2015. It added that he had been jailed for eight months until this March, when he was released "due to lack of evidence".
But Mr Goldsmith said there was reason to doubt whether Mr Al Nuaimi had been in prison for that amount of time, pointing to a series of tweets from his account which suggest otherwise.
In the letter to Mr Burt, he said: "The Qatari Government Communications Office published on their website a statement in response to the article in The Telegraph which contained a variety of inconsistencies and raises worrying questions about Qatar's claims to be adopting a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism.
"On the specific case of Al Nuaimi, the Qataris state that he was only released from jail in March 2018, but his publicly available Twitter feed @binomeir suggests otherwise. It is true that Al Nuaimi's Twitter feed fell silent on July 10, but he resumed tweeting on December 25, 2017. How is that possible if he was still in custody?"
The MP also said that certain individuals are still missing from Qatar’s designated terrorist list.
"It was welcome news that Qatar finally published a list of sanctioned individuals in March 2018, but the list did not include the UN sanctioned Khalifa Al Subaiy, a Qatar-based terrorist financier and facilitator," he said.
"We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to Qatar’s behaviour. This is a country which has considerable economic investments and media interests in this country,” he added. “So I urge you to raise these matters with your Qatari counterpart at the earliest opportunity."
Mr Al Nuaimi is a former head of the Qatar Football Association who was designated by the United States and United Nations for financing Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The statement from the Qatari government last month claimed: “There is no hypocrisy at work here.”
“The prime minister will continue to support the good work of his employees, and will not avoid a family affair because a defendant standing trial may possibly be in attendance.”