Credit Reuters/United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed
Belgium has summoned the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the country after reports emerged that Abu Dhabi is involved in a smear campaign aimed at associating at least 1,000 people living in Europe with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The European Investigative Cooperation Group (EIC) said in a report published on Friday that the United Arab Emirates targeted these individuals in several European countries as part of a smear campaign against Qatar the conflict in the Gulf countries.
Between 2017 and 2020, Alp Service, a private intelligence company based in Switzerland, created profiles of people in 18 European countries and 400 organizations on behalf of the United Arab Emirates intelligence, such as mentioned in the report.
The report is based on 78,000 classified documents, which were obtained by French media outlet Mediapart and shared with the EIC.
Among the documents are the names of hundreds of individuals who have been drawn from graphic designs linked to extremism.
A targeted minister
About 80 organizations and 160 people are from Belgium. Among them is Zakia Khattabi, the federal minister of environment and sustainability.
Khattabi told French media outlet Le Soir that she hopes the investigation doesn’t cost too much, because everything is fake. She said she has no affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Her party, Ecolo, which is also on the list, strongly condemned the UAE’s suspected involvement.
“The action of the United Arab Emirates, through the Swiss company, is a scandal. It is a symbol of the anti-democratic behavior of this regime,” said the Ecolo party.
“The results are obviously stupid and laughable and don’t deserve any response or attention.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium summoned the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Brussels, and demanded a “full explanation and details,” the ministry told Middle East Eye.
The UAE paid €5.7m in damages
The authorities of the United Arab Emirates paid between 20,000 and 50,000 euros for each person targeted, according to Le Soir. Alp and its CEO Mario Brero were paid 5.7 million euros by the UAE.
Alp started a media campaign. They edited Wikipedia pages of targeted individuals and tried to convince banks to close personal accounts.
More than 200 people and 120 organizations from France have been made into files created by Alp, according to Mediaport. Among those people is former presidential candidate Benoit Hamon.
“Since I declared myself president, I can’t even publish a single message on social media without being attacked with absurd fiction and accusations that I have links with Islamists,” he told Mediapart.
UAE officials did not respond to requests for comment from the EIC.
Alp intelligence said that this news was based on “stolen information”, and said that some of the documents were “falsified”.
In March, the New Yorker reported that the United Arab Emirates funded a campaign by Alp to discredit the UK-based organization Islamic Relief and link its officials to the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to the report, Alp tried to connect Heshmat Khalifa, who was a member of that organization, with terrorism, after the work done by this Egyptian man in Bosnia in the 90s.
In 2014, the UAE added Islamic Relief to a list of 86 banned “terrorist” groups, along with several prominent Muslim organizations, including the Council of American Islamic Relations.
Abu Dhabi has accused Islamic Relief of being an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, an allegation that Islamic Relief has denied.