A member of the Qatari royal family says he is being held against his will in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani released on Sunday a video statement saying he was “a prisoner” in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, and that if anything happened to him, “Sheikh Mohammed” is responsible.
While he did not specify, Sheikh Abdullah appeared to be referring to Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
“I am currently in Abu Dhabi. I was a guest of Sheikh Mohammed. I am no longer a guest; I am a prisoner,” he said in the video, which was widely circulated on social media.
“They told me not to leave. I am afraid that anything could happen to me, and the people of Qatar would be blamed. So I just wanted to inform you that if anything happens to me, the people of Qatar are innocent,” added Sheikh Abdullah.
“I am a guest of Sheikh Mohammed and if anything happens to me after this, he is fully responsible.”
Sheikh Abdullah is a son of a Qatari emir from the 1960s, Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al Thani. He dropped off the radar for decades but rose to prominence suddenly last summer, when a major diplomatic crisis broke out in the Gulf.
After Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar in June, Sheikh Abdullah appeared frequently on Saudi and UAE television programmes expressing his views in support of the measures against Doha.
At an Arab League meeting in Cairo in September, Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi said Saudi Arabia was looking to depose Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and replace him with Sheikh Abdullah.
Majed al-Ansari, a professor at Qatar University, said Sheikh Abdullah’s apparent detention could be seen as part of a wider “trend of behaviour” by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in dealing with high-profile Arab personalities that may be used as leverage.
In November, Lebanese officials alleged that Prime Minister Saad Hariri was being held hostage by Saudi authorities.
Hariri appeared on television from Saudi Arabia on November 4 to announce his resignation, but retracted it when he returned home.
Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik released a similar video in November, saying he was being barred from leaving the UAE, where he had been living since 2012.
“This is now the way that Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi deal with their friends,” al-Ansari told Al Jazeera.
“Sheikh Abdullah is of no use to these countries because their plan to orchestrate a coup in Qatar has failed miserably.”