UAE Criminalizes Sympathy Towards Qatar, Imposing Up to 15 Years Jail Penalty

Four Arab countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing the Persian Gulf nation of supporting terror and triggering the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years.

Gargash said Qatar "definitely" should expel members of Hamas, stop its support of terror groups "with al-Qaida DNA" around the world and rein in the many media outlets it funds, chief among them the Doha-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates announced Monday that they were pulling their diplomats from Qatar and closing all land, sea and air borders.

"That hack showed the UAE's real concerns and that what we really say in our private emails is what we say publicly", Gargash said. Its foreign minister has struck a defiant tone in interviews, even after anxious residents emptied grocery stores in its capital of Doha as Saudi Arabia has blocked trucks carrying food from entering the country.

"The claim needs to be verified but the move by Gulf nations sends a very serious message that anyone suspected of funding terrorists will not be taken lightly", said Patrick Maluki, a lecturer in diplomacy at the University of Nairobi. "Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!"

A former USA diplomat in the region said the inconsistencies between Trump's tweets Tuesday and Tillerson and Mattis's statements Monday would make it hard for US diplomats to do their jobs.

On top of a possible jail term of 15 years, offenders would also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams, (£100,000) the newspaper said.

Tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia - a Middle East heavyweight - bubbled to the surface two weeks ago when Qatar said its state-run news agency and its Twitter account were hacked to publish a fake story claiming the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, had called Iran "a regional and Islamic power that can not be ignored".

"Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve", he said during his speech.

He also met one-on-one with the emir of Qatar the same day and promised to sell the country "beautiful" weapons. In late May, Qatar's state-run news agency published comments from its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Thani, expressing support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel, and suggesting President Donald Trump would not stay in power. Even tweeting criticism against the UAE's anti-Qatar stance may be punished.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Wednesday said Qatar must deliver on the promises it made during the 2014 situation.

Yemeni's Houthi rebels are supported by Iran, which the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) accuse of receiving support from Qatar.

Qatar long has denied funding extremists, and its foreign minister has struck a defiant tone in interviews, even after anxious residents emptied grocery stores in its capital of Doha. It said Qatar is "promoting extremist thoughts and spreading chaos and disturbances across numerous Arab countries, resulting in big humanitarian miseries". Al-Jazeera offices also have been shut down by authorities in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

"Qataris are questioning whether this is going to end up in seeing a change in leadership itself in Qatar", Al Qassemi told the AP in his office in Sharjah, near Dubai.

  • Zachary Reyes