MANAMA, Bahrain (AFP) — Bahrain’s Olympic Committee (BOC) called Tuesday for the IOC to intervene to secure the release of its star bodybuilder who they claim was unlawfully detained by Qatar during a fishing trip.
Bahrain “strongly condemned the Qatari coastguard’s arrest of Bahraini bodybuilding champion Sami Al-Haddad on a fishing cruise with a number of his companions in Bahraini territorial waters,” its foreign ministry said Sunday.
The Gulf kingdom has 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 even as the Gulf crisis was resolved.
“He was venturing on a fishing cruise with friends in Bahraini territorial waters and has been unlawfully detained in violation of international treaties, laws and customs,” Mohammed al-Nusuf, Secretary General of the BOC, told AFP.
The incident occurred on 8 January and Haddad had been out of contact since, he said.
Despite the incident, on which Doha has yet to comment, Bahrain’s foreign minister has invited a Qatari delegation to visit “as soon as possible.”
“His phone is switched off, no communication at all,” Nusuf said.
“The BOC appeals to the international sports community and the International Olympic Committee to take a position on the unlawful detention… in order to secure his safe return back home with his wife and son.”
The BOC had written to the IOC urging it to intervene, he added.
Saudi Arabia and its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June 2017 slapped a blockade on Qatar, that included closing airspace to the country over claims it backed Islamist groups and was too close to Iran.
Qatar always denied the charges.
The quartet agreed to lift the restrictions at a Gulf Cooperation Council summit last week in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula, after energetic diplomacy by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.