Qatar on Friday rejected allegations of supporting individuals and groups blacklisted as “terrorists” by four Arab countries which cut ties with it this week amid a major diplomatic fallout.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt published a list of 59 people and 12 groups with links to Qatar late on Thursday, alleging that they have ties to “terrorism”.
“The recent joint statement issued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE regarding a ‘terror finance watch list’ once again reinforces baseless allegations that hold no foundation in fact,” the Qatari government said in response.
The list included Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most prominent Muslim religious leaders in the Middle East, as well as Qatari-funded charitable organisations.
Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor at Qatar University, said that the release of this list was “part of the demonisation [campaign] against Qatar”.
“They are demonising Qatar, in saying that they are not helping fight ‘terrorism’ and trying to use this list as evidence,” Zweiri told Al Jazeera.
He said the claims of the list are dubious because “there’s a body within Qatar’s Ministry of Social Affairs, which looks at all the charities and monitors every penny they receive and send”.
Zweiri added that these charities cooperate with international aid agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK-based Oxfam, in conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq.
“By saying that those specific [Qatari] charities [are engaged in ‘terrorism’], they are questioning the work of the international aid agencies cooperating with them as well.”
In London, the independent UK-based Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) released a statement condemning the Saudi bloc’s list as “arbitrary”.
“The list was clearly made up arbitrarily, to serve political agendas, without relying on any evidence or an impartial judicial authority,” the group wrote.
“The exact legal definition and crime of ‘terrorism’ needs to be determined by a neutral judicial authority, which is not available in these countries [Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain].”
The human rights group also criticised the countries for abuses carried out among their population by broadly applying “terrorism” to crack down on activists and ordinary citizenry.
The AOHR also warned that the list violated clear laws against defamation, as the reputation of individuals and charitable organisations is put at risk.
The list’s release was just the latest escalation in the bloc’s efforts to isolate Qatar, as allegations that it interferes in the affairs of its neighbours by supporting and financing Islamist groups continue to be levied against it.
Qatar has vehemently denied the charges.
In its statement, the Qatari government said it has been leading the region in attacking what it called the roots of “terrorism”, including giving young people hope through jobs, educating hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and funding community programmes to challenge agendas of armed groups.
“Our position on countering terrorism is stronger than many of the signatories of the joint statement – a fact that has been conveniently ignored by the authors,” the government said.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have suspended all flights to and from Doha and closed off sea and air links to Qatar.
Saudi Arabia has also closed off Qatar’s only land border.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Friday described the blockade as a violation of international law and said there was an attempt to mobilise international opinion against Qatar.
“These procedures that were taken have clear violations of international law and international humanitarian law. They will not have a positive impact on the region but a negative one,” he told a press conference during a visit in Germany.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday, the foreign minister said that the country would not bow to the pressure being applied by Saudi, the UAE and their allies to change its independent foreign policy – a move Qatar considers a violation of its sovereignty.
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