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UAE social media users 'showing sympathy' for Qatar could face jail time

10 Juin 2017

An outspoken Emirati ruling family member on Wednesday raised the prospect of Qatar's leadership changing amid a growing diplomatic crisis between it and other Arab nations attempting to isolate the energy-rich travel hub from the rest of the world.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they sanctioned the groups and individuals because of "the continuous and ongoing violations of the authorities in Doha of Qatar's commitments and obligations". Western officials long have accused Qatar's government of allowing or even encouraging the funding of some Sunni extremists, and the Qatari government has openly supported the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have banned Al-Jazeera from the airwaves and closed the channel´s offices.

The Qatari foreign minister said he still did not understand what the accusations against Doha were all about.

In Germany, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he wants to see a response from Qatar to the Arab countries' demands "soon".

"Qatar should stop using the media to promote an extremist agenda", Gargash said, referring to Al-Jazeera satellite television.

The United States, Kuwait's emir and Turkey worked to end a row, with U.S. President Donald Trump offering to help resolve the crisis, possibly in a meeting at the White House.

"If anyone thinks they are going to impose anything on my internal affairs or my internal issues, this is not going to happen", Sheikh Mohammed said.

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"In another circular, the Central Bank advised banks and other financial institutions operating in the UAE to apply immediately enhanced customer due diligence for any accounts they hold belonging to six Qatari banks: Qatar Islamic Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank, Barwa Bank, Masraf al-Rayan, Qatar National Bank and Doha Bank", WAM said.

The Persian Gulf countries have ordered their citizens out of Qatar and gave Qataris overseas 14 days to return home.

The minister referred to a series of steps Doha is undertaking to restore relations with them, including "stopping support for extremism and terrorism and the need for clear political engagement that reflects a change in the course of national policies".

"Our expectation is that our initial steps were very strong. and this will jolt the system in Qatar", he said.

"The UAE attorney-general warns that any participation in conversation on social media or any other means that demonstrates sympathy to Qatar or protests the position of the UAE and other states against the Qatari government may face a prison sentence of three to 15 years and a fine of no less than 500,000 dirhams [$136,125, 120,715 euros]", said a statement carried by the Gulf News and Al-Bayan newspapers.

While liberal compared to much of the Middle East, the UAE has tough cybercrime and slander laws under which people can be arrested, imprisoned and deported for taking photographs without the consent of those shown.

The UAE did not hack the Qatari news agency, Gargash said.

Al Qassemi also warned Qatar should not rely on hosting some 10,000 American troops at its al-Udeid Air Base as protection against the Arab nations lined up against it.

UAE social media users 'showing sympathy' for Qatar could face jail time