DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Qatar-backed, pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera said today it has lodged a formal complaint against Egypt demanding $150 million in compensation to cover what it says are damages to its investments in the country since July.
The move is certain to deepen a rift between Egypt’s interim government and the small Gulf nation of Qatar, which was a strong supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
RELATED ARTICLE: Egypt sentences 683 to death in mass trial
Al-Jazeera said in a statement posted on its website that it lodged a formal “notification of dispute” with Egypt’s interim government based on a bilateral investment treaty between Qatar and Egypt dating back to 1999. That pact calls on both governments to provide “fair and equitable treatment” to investors, according to the network. It did not say where it was lodged.
“As the treaty obliges Egypt to provide Al Jazeera’s investments with full protection and security, Al Jazeera considers the Egyptian authorities to be in violation of international law,” the network said.
It threatened to seek international arbitration if it the two sides do not reach a settlement within six months.
Egyptian authorities accuse the Doha, Qatar-based network of providing a platform for the Brotherhood. The interim military-backed Egyptian government has branded the Islamist group a terrorist organization — a charge the Brotherhood denies.
Egyptian government representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
Al Jazeera has faced what it calls a “sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation” since Morsi’s ouster in July.
Egypt’s interim government in August called a local affiliate of the network known as Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr a national threat, with government ministers alleging it operated illegally and in violation of professional standards. It remains on the air.
A number of Al Jazeera journalists have been detained since Morsi was removed from power, including three working for the network’s English-language channel who were arrested in Cairo in December.
The three journalists — Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed — are currently on trial on charges that they are part of a terrorist group and for airing falsified footage intended to damage Egyptian national security.
Al-Jazeera dismisses suggestions it acts as a Brotherhood platform, and the defendants deny being members of the group. They say they were simply doing their jobs by reporting on Egypt’s political turmoil.
The case is part of an unprecedented crackdown on the Brotherhood since the Egyptian military ousted Morsi. Hundreds of his supporters have been killed in crackdowns on protests and more than 16,000 have been arrested.