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UAE outlaws sympathy for Qatar on social media

Emirati attorney general says social media opposition to UAE policies against Qatar can lead to 15 years in jail
An Eikon ship-tracking screen shows tanker traffic around Qatar over the last seven days, illustration photo (Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates’ top prosecutor Hamad Saif Al Shamsi warned on Tuesday that showing sympathy for Qatar on social media is a “crime”.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and other Arab nations have abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Doha, blocking their borders and airspace to nationals and flights from the tiny Gulf kingdom.

Opposing the UAE's new policies against Qatar, which Al Shamsi said were taken for the country’s interests and national security, could be punished by up to 15 years in jail, Emirati Arabic news website Albayan reported.

Translation - Emirati attorney general: Expressing Sympathy for Qatar on social media websites is a crime punishable by law.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Tuesday the damage caused by economic measures taken against Qatar should convince it to change its policies.

Saudi Arabia has accused Doha of supporting militant groups, a charge that Qatar denies.

"We believe that common sense and logic and will convince Qatar to take the right steps," Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Paris.

"The decisions that were made were very strong and will have a fairly large cost on Qatar and we do not believe that Qataris want to sustain those costs."

Later on Tuesday, AlArabiya reported that al-Jubeir also said that cutting ties with Qatar is a result of its failure to stop supporting “hostile media”.

Since the crisis began, 85 percent of Qatar’s imports, including food trucks from Saudi Arabia, have been blocked.

The harsh measures, imposed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, have prompted empathy for Qataris from fellow Gulf citizens.

The news of outlawing social media support for Qatar sparked ridicule on Twitter.

“Be aware even in prayers,” wrote one user. “When you pray for Muslims, don’t forget to leave out Qataris.”