KUWAIT (Reuters) – Islamists held in the United Arab Emirates accused of planning to topple the government were financed by Kuwaiti nationals, Kuwaiti media reported on Friday, lending support to UAE fears of an international plot against its rulers.
The UAE, a major oil exporter, has detained more than 60 Islamists in the past year who it says belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group founded in Egypt in 1928 and which is banned in the Gulf Arab state, and who it accuses of planning to establish an Islamic state and operating an armed wing.
The UAE has repeatedly said that the detainees were receiving financial support from individuals in other Gulf Arab states, but had stopped short of naming those countries.
Several newspapers on Friday quoted Kuwaiti parliamentarians as saying Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah informed them at a confidential meeting held on Thursday that Kuwaiti nationals had been providing financial support to Muslim Brotherhood members in the UAE.
“Yes, there was financing coming from Kuwait,” Sheikh Jaber told the parliamentarians in the session, according to the Arabic-language daily al-Watan.
Sheikh Jaber gave no further details, al-Watan reported, adding only: “We can’t announce the names before they have been referred to the courts.”
The pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat carried a similar report, quoting two MPs as confirming the prime minister’s comments.
A government spokesman in Kuwait was not immediately available to comment, nor were UAE officials available on Friday, the first day of the weekend in most Gulf Arab states.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not banned in Kuwait, which has the most open political system in the Gulf.
Thanks to its state-sponsored cradle-to-grave welfare systems, the UAE has avoided the unrest that has unseated autocratic Arab rulers elsewhere in the past two years, but it has come down hard on any sign of political dissent.
Local Islamists became emboldened by their counterparts’ successes in other parts of the region during the Arab Spring, such as in Egypt and Tunisia, and made unprecedented use of social media to air their views.
In July, Dubai police chief Dhahi Khalfan warned of an international plot to overthrow Gulf Arab governments, saying the region needed to be prepared to counter any threat from Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers as well as from Syria and Iran.
Last week, local newspapers reported that the UAE had rejected a request by Egypt to free 11 of its citizens held on suspicion of training Islamists in how to overthrow governments.