UAEGate: UAE Ambassador in Belgium recalled, European protests against Abu Dhabi’s defamation campaign
Belgium has recalled the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Brussels due to Abu Dhabi’s involvement in a defamation campaign that linked over a thousand individuals in Europe to the Muslim Brotherhood and alleged extremist terrorism.
Emirates Leaks has learned from diplomatic sources that several European countries have taken similar steps to protest against the UAE government regarding the revealed campaign of incitement and tarnishing the reputation of European figures.
According to the sources, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled UAE Ambassador Mohammed Al-Sahlawi in Brussels and demanded “full explanations” regarding the scandal raised against Abu Dhabi.
Belgian radio station RTBF confirmed Al-Sahlawi’s recall and expressed a strong protest from Brussels, warning him of the repercussions of his government’s actions.
Between 2017 and 2020, ALP Services, a private Swiss intelligence company, created files for individuals from 18 European countries and 400 organizations on behalf of the Emirati intelligence agencies.
The report relied on 78,000 classified documents obtained by the French newspaper Mediapart online and shared with the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC).
The documents included a chart with hundreds of names and various connections in an alleged attempt to link individuals to extremism.
Eighty organizations and 160 individuals from Belgium were listed, including Zakia Khattabi, the federal minister for the environment and sustainability in the country.
Khattabi told the French newspaper Le Soir that she hoped the investigation wouldn’t be “costly because everything is wrong,” adding that she has no connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, “neither close nor distant.”
Her party, Ecolo, which was also included, strongly condemned the alleged involvement of the UAE.
The statement said the UAE’s approach through the mediation of this Swiss company is disgraceful. It embodies the anti-democratic practices of this regime.
It continued, “It is clear that the results are ridiculous and laughable to the point that they do not deserve any comment or attention.”
Political scientist Fouad Gandoul, another Belgian listed in the document, stated that he has no connection to the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Le Soir, Gandoul was added to the list due to his membership in an organization that has now expired, which supports progressive Islamic voices.
Gandoul said, “It seems like I entered a James Bond movie. Swiss and UAE spies, what a story.”
The UAE authorities made purchase requests ranging from €20,000 to €50,000 (approximately $22,000 to $55,000) per individual target, according to leaked documents.
Additionally, the UAE paid at least €5.7 million to ALP and its head, Mario Brero.
In return, ALP launched media campaigns, edited Wikipedia pages, and attempted to persuade banks to close specific accounts.
According to Mediapart, over 200 individuals and 120 organizations in France had files created by ALP. Among them was former left-wing presidential candidate Benoît Hamon.
Hamon told Mediapart, “Since my presidential candidacy, I cannot publish a single message on my social media accounts without being attacked due to ridiculous delusions and allegations of collusion with Islamists.”
In March of last year, the New Yorker magazine reported that the UAE funded a campaign conducted by ALP to tarnish the reputation of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IRW), which is headquartered in the United Kingdom, and sought to link officials of the organization to the Muslim Brotherhood and violent extremists.