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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates on Thursday disputed Qatar’s discrimination lawsuit before the United Nations’ highest court, alleging there was evidence of Doha’s “support of terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its neighbors and its distribution of hate speech.”

The UAE’s defense before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, largely resembled the allegations it and three other Arab nations leveled when launching their yearlong boycott of Qatar last June.

However, a UAE representative before the court contradicted his Foreign Ministry’s own orders about expelling Qataris from the federation at the start of the crisis.

“My country was falsely accused,” said Saeed Ali al-Nuwais, the UAE’s ambassador to the Netherlands. “The UAE completely rejects these allegations, all of which are without any merit.”

Qatar filed the lawsuit earlier this month, accusing the UAE of violating its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the other countries boycotting Qatar in the dispute, have not consented to the court’s jurisdiction, though the UAE has, Doha said.

On Wednesday, a Qatari official told the court that “thousands of Qataris are unable to return to the UAE, separated from their families there,” adding that Qataris have lost jobs and property, and have been unable to continue their studies at UAE schools. He also said the UAE has threatened prosecution for those who offer “sympathy” for Qatar amid the dispute.

Al-Nuwais disputed all the claims, contending at one point that “there has been no mass expulsion of Qataris from the UAE.”

That contradicts the June 5, 2017, orders of the UAE’s Foreign Ministry, which gave “Qatari residents and visitors in the UAE 14 days to leave the country for precautionary security reasons.” The four Arab nations also blocked their airspace and seaports to Qatar, while Saudi Arabia also cut off its only land border.

Since the crisis began, there have been “8,000 occasions” of Qataris entering or leaving the UAE, al-Nuwais said, saying Qataris could get individual permission from the Emirati Interior Ministry.

Boycotting nations say the crisis stems from Qatar’s support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. Their demands include Qatar limiting diplomatic ties to Iran, shutting down the state-funded Al-Jazeera satellite news network and other media outlets, and severing ties to all “terrorist organizations,” including the Muslim Brotherhood and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

“Qatar would have this court believe it was an innocent bystander,” al-Nuwais said. “The reality is the present crisis was caused by Qatar’s own illegal conduct.”

Cases at the ICJ take months or years to complete. However, requests for provisional measures like those requested by Qatar are dealt with quicker.

Rulings by the ICJ are final and binding on those involved.


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