Expatica news

Qatar releases Bahrain bodybuilder, 2 others: Manama

Qatar released three Bahrainis including a bodybuilding champion and his companion who Manama says were unlawfully seized by Doha while fishing, Bahrain’s interior ministry said on Thursday.

Bahraini bodybuilding champion Sami Al-Haddad was detained on January 8 along with a friend, according to Bahrain, which insisted they were in the country’s own territorial waters.

A third man, Habib Abas, a fisherman allegedly detained by Qatar in a separate incident on December 3, was also freed, Bahrain’s interior ministry added in a statement.

“The Interior Ministry… was notified by the Foreign Ministry about the release (of the) three Bahrainis arrested by the Qatari Coast and Border Guard,” Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said.

Bahrain was among a group of four countries led by regional power Saudi Arabia that imposed an economic blockade on Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of being too close to Iran and funding extremists.

The quartet’s freeze ended earlier this month at a regional summit.

But Bahrain has separately repeatedly clashed with Doha over the enforcement of maritime boundaries, with several incidents in recent months which have seen Qatar’s coastguard intercept Bahraini vessels.

The released trio were flown home via Oman, the statement said.

But “their seized boats weren’t released, bringing the total number of Bahraini boats that are still confiscated in Qatar to 50,” it added.

Bahrain has recently opened its airspace to Qatar following the resolution of the Gulf crisis. Direct flights between the two nations have yet to resume.

Bahrain’s foreign minister has invited a Qatari delegation to visit “as soon as possible”.

Following several maritime incidents, Bahrain flew four of its fighter jets over Qatar’s territorial waters on December 9, Doha claimed in a letter to the United Nations Security Council.

But Manama, in its own letter to the United Nations, denied it breached Qatari airspace, during what it described as a routine exercise in Saudi and Bahraini airspace.

In the early days of the Gulf dispute in 2017, the Qatari coastguard seized 15 Bahraini fishing boats, alleging they had been operating illegally in the emirate’s waters.

Qatar had a longstanding territorial dispute with Bahrain over the waters and small islands that separate the peninsula from the main islands of its maritime neighbour.

That row was resolved by the International Court of Justice in 2001.