*Rights panel seeks freedom of Qatari student detained in Saudi Arabia since July 2018

The National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) has welcomed the release of Qatari citizen Mohsen Saleh Saadoun al-Korbi, who had been arbitrarily detained by the Saudi authorities since April 21, 2018, and deprived of his most basic rights to contact his family or lawyer.

His family was also unable to know the place of his detention specifically, nor the charges made against him.

In a statement issued on Monday, the NHRC said it has been in constant contact with UN bodies, international organisations and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to demand the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to determine the Qatari citizen's place and to release him.

The committee called on the Saudi authorities to compensate the Qatari citizen for the harm he suffered during his enforced disappearance.

The NHRC also called on the Saudi authorities to immediately release Qatari student Abdulaziz Saeed Abdulla, who has been arbitrarily detained in Saudi prisons since July 2018 without trial.

Also, the committee called upon UN bodies and international organisations to conduct extensive investigations into Saudi authorities' gross and systematic violations and discriminatory measures against Qatari citizens.

In its statement, the NHRC also called on the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to take swift measures to release the Qatari student arbitrarily detained by the Saudi authorities.

Other than the unlawful detention, Saudi Arabia has been preventing Qatari citizens and residents from performing Haj, since an illegal blockade has been imposed on the Gulf nation since June 2017.

Saudi Arabia's violations of the right to practise religious rites and its deliberate politicisation of Haj and Umrah should be included in the annual report on religious freedom issued by the US State Department, the NHRC chairman had said.

Dr Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri also invited US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback to visit Qatar to find out the real violations and obstacles that prevent citizens and residents of the country from performing their religious rituals for the third consecutive year since the beginning of the blockade of Qatar in June 2017.

During a meeting with Ambassador Brownback in Washington recently, Dr al-Marri warned of the growing rhetoric of incitement and hatred practised by Saudi Arabia and the rest of the blockading countries that target Qatari citizens, journalists and media institutions. The growing rhetoric of incitement and hatred practised by the blockading countries also include threats of assault and murder, as well as the issuance of laws to punish the citizens of the siege countries in the event of them expressing solidarity with their brothers in Qatar, against violations that have been affecting them for more than two years.

In response to a question from Ambassador Brownback on the preparations for the Haj season in Qatar, the NHRC chairman said: "Unfortunately, we are approaching the third consecutive year, with Saudi Arabia depriving Qatar's citizens and residents from exercising their right to perform Haj, as a result of the Saudi authorities' persistence to impose obstacles on the way of those who want to practise their religious rituals."

He went on to say that before each Haj season, the Saudi authorities deliberately mislead the world's public opinion saying that they are welcoming Qatari pilgrims to the holy sites. "However, these authorities do not take any serious step or initiative to ease the obstacles they put since the beginning of the blockade, in particular allowing citizens and residents to travel to the holy sites through direct flights via Qatar Airways, instead of stopovers; and guaranteeing the safety of the worshippers in light of continued incitement against the citizens and residents of Qatar."

The NHRC chairman presented to the US Ambassador for Religious Freedoms all documents and evidence proving Saudi violations of the right to practise religious rites and invited him to visit Qatar soon to get first-hand information about the Saudi violations and to listen to the testimonies of officials concerned, and victims.

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