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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A prominent human rights lawyer demanded Monday that Qatar compensate Dutch-based victims of an al-Qaida-linked Syrian extremist group, saying the Al Nusra group was financed by Qatar-based funding networks.

In a letter sent to Qatar’s ruling emir that was seen by The Associated Press, lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld accused the wealthy Gulf state of failing to take action against the al-Nusra Front and said: “Qatar is therefore liable for the damages suffered by the victims.”

Qatar denies funding extremist groups. Qatari authorities did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on Zegveld’s claims and her demand for compensation.

In her letter to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Zegveld alleged that one of the victims was taken hostage by members of al-Nusra near Damascus in December 2012.

The man, whose identity was not released out of safety concerns, was repeatedly tortured, forced to watch the executions of two other hostages and subjected to a mock execution. The militants demanded nearly $2 million for his release.

He eventually escaped and fled Syria, and has since been granted asylum in the Netherlands, Zegveld said.

Qatar, which hosts some 10,000 U.S. troops and the forward operating base of the U.S. military’s Central Command, is a peninsular nation that juts out like a thumb into the Persian Gulf. It has the world’s highest per-capita income due to its massive natural gas reserves.

While the country denies funding extremist groups, it remains a key patron of the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip. Western officials also have accused Qatar of allowing or encouraging funding of Sunni extremists like the Nusra Front. It also has hosted members of the Afghan Taliban.

However, those ties have been useful to Western governments. Qatar helped negotiate the release of captives held by the Nusra Front in the past. It also helped negotiate the 2014 release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners.

Qatar also has backed members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab Islamist organization that the Gulf’s hereditary Arab rulers view as a threat to their sheikhdoms. That has been at the heart of the ongoing boycott of Qatar by four Arab nations.

The Nusra Front “was only able to arise and maintain its terrorist activities due to the financing provided by Qatar,” Zegveld said in her letter. “Qatar supports and facilitates the terrorist organization in various ways.”

Zegveld said that if Qatar fails to establish a compensation fund, she will launch legal proceedings against the country, state officials and “other individuals and organizations residing in Qatar that are involved in the financing of terrorism.”

She gave Qatar six weeks to respond.


Associated Press correspondent Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.