Former guest of UAE crown prince, Qatari sheikh Abdullah says now 'detained'

#GulfTensions

In October, sources told MEE that Abdullah was leading an initiative to declare the formation of a Qatari government-in-exile

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meeting with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani in Jeddah last month (AFP)
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Sunday 14 January 2018 15:03 UTC
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A controversial member of Qatar's royal family says he is being detained in the UAE, media reported on Sunday, eight months into a crisis between Gulf states.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, a little-known royal, emerged as an unlikely mediator in August, weeks after Riyadh and Abu Dhabi cut ties with Doha. 

A video circulating online shows the sheikh seated in an armchair warning that he was "afraid something could happen to me that will be blamed on Qatar".

"I am now in Abu Dhabi, where I was a guest of [UAE Crown Prince] Sheikh Mohammed" bin Zayed al-Nahyan, he said.

"That is no longer the case. I am now detained," Abdullah said.

"I want to make clear that the people of Qatar are innocent," the sheikh said. "Sheikh Mohammed bears full responsibility for anything that happens to me."

The video could not be immediately authenticated, while Emirati officials were not immediately available for comment.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June over allegations Doha supported Islamist extremists and had close ties to regional rival Iran.

Doha denies the accusations. 

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In August, Sheikh Abdullah met powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to mediate on reopening a land border to allow Qatari pilgrims to perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca.

It was the first public high-level encounter between the two nations since the diplomatic crisis erupted.

Doha was quick to point out that he was in Saudi Arabia on a personal mission and did not represent the government.

Abdullah belongs to a branch of the Al Thani royal family that has seen its power eroded but is still well-connected in the Gulf.

Government in exile?

In October, sources told MEE that Abdullah was leading an initiative to declare the formation of a Qatari government-in-exile to push for regime change in Doha.

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was the key figure among a group of exiled Qataris, already known publicly as opponents of the ruling Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who were preparing to announce the establishment of an opposition government.