Qatari emir amends laws to bolster fight against terrorism

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attends the 25th Arab Summit.
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attends the 25th Arab Summit. PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA (REUTERS) - Qatar's ruler has amended the country's anti-terrorism laws in a royal decree issued on Thursday (July 20), state news agency QNA reported, in a move that appears aimed at countering charges the Gulf Arab state supports terrorism.

The move comes less than a week after Doha signed an accord with the United States to bolster measures aimed at curbing terrorism financing.

Qatar has been under pressure from four Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab and Egypt, over allegations it supports terrorism, a charge it denies.

QNA, citing a decree issued by the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani amending a 2004 anti-terrorism law, said the amendments set rules for defining terrorism, acts of terrorism, freezing funding and terrorism financing.

It also creates two national terrorism lists and set rules for listing individuals and groups on each list.

Qatar has been struggling to dispel charges it supports terrorism since the four Arab countries imposed sanctions on it last month.

Last week, Qatar signed an accord with the US that provided for measures to work together to fight terrorism financing. Details of the accord had not been released but sources said it provides for the US to post officials at Qatar's state prosecutor's office.

A Western official in the Gulf who has seen the document said it specifies actions Qatar will take by the end of the year, including placing two US Department of Justice officials in Qatar's general prosecution. "They will work hand in hand with Qatar to charge individuals accused of financing terrorists," said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Other actions in the agreement include imposing travel bans, enforcing surveillance and freezing the assets of individuals with suspected links to terrorism. The accord points to internationally agreed definitions of terrorism without specifying particular groups.

A US Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment.

A Qatari official said that the country's general prosecutor would be working with US officials but that the terms of the cooperation had not been finalised.

The deal suggests White House officials hope to use the Gulf crisis over Qatar as a way to stem alleged financing flows from the wealthy region to terrorist groups. "It's a very strong agreement. If followed, this should achieve exactly what Trump requested in the Riyadh summit," said the Western official.

The four Arab countries last month named 59 individuals and 12 organisations they accused of terrorism and links to Qatar.

That included Egypt-born cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Qatar Charity, a state body which carries out aid projects with the United Nations.

Qatar has said the list is politically motivated.

Saudi King Salman on Thursday also decreed the consolidation of counter-terrorism and domestic intelligence under a new body, in a major overhaul of the security apparatus weeks after the interior minister was ousted from the royal succession.