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Fifa accused of being ‘complicit’ in ‘human rights travesty’

The family of imprisoned World Cup whistleblower Abdullah Ibhais has accused Fifa and President Gianni Infantino of “callous indifference” and “complicity” in a “human rights travesty” that is “tearing apart” his young family.

“We refuse to withdraw,” a statement read. “We call on the Qatari authorities to immediately release Abdullah and ask all human rights organizations, journalists, activists, players and the World Cup audience to raise their voices and call for Freedom for Abdullah.”

Ibhais’ case was referred to a team of UN human rights experts on Wednesday, which the family hopes will result in an official declaration that his case amounts to arbitrary detention.

Ibhais had recommended in August 2019 that Qatar’s Supreme Committee recognize their role in the abuse of migrant workers related to stadium construction.

Subsequently, a dossier was submitted by the Supreme Committee containing serious allegations against Ibhais, in which he was detained by the Qatari state security. He signed a confession under duress and was convicted in April 2021 of “bribery”, “violation of the integrity of tenders and profits” and “intentional damage to public funds”, based entirely on his confession.

Ibhais subsequently contacted human rights organizations about his case and provided detailed information to substantiate his claims. Human Rights Watch and FairSquare published details of the case and due process violations in October 2021. Ibhais was arrested in November 2021, with Qatari authorities saying they would carry out the custodial sentence.

Qatar has denied the allegations, insisting that Ibhais be convicted on “an abundance of strong and credible evidence”.

Ibhais will now serve his full sentence unless pardoned. During his imprisonment, he has already spent four days between November 2 and November 6 “in complete darkness in solitary confinement, after being physically assaulted by the prison guards… with temperatures near freezing as the prison’s central air conditioning was used as a torture device” .

A general view of the Corniche next to the FIFA World Cup logo

(Getty Images)

Human rights groups have repeatedly called on Fifa to use its immense influence to specifically call for a fair trial for Ibhais.

The global governing body has so far only repeated the rule “every person deserves a trial that is fair and where due process is observed and respected”, which FairSquare says is pointless, further describing their reporting as being in “lock step” with the Supreme Commission.

This is one of many factors that have once again caused the family to speak out as the World Cup draws to a close. A statement noted the contrast between the opening ceremony on November 20 and the conditions Ibhais suffered several miles away.

“The big difference between the two scenes at the opening of the World Cup will always haunt us as his family. On the one hand, football fans around the world celebrated the start of the highly anticipated event with all the joy, talent, surprises and entertainment that the World Cup always brings.”

The statement then details Ibhais’ testimony to his family.

“I think the temperature reached four degrees at some points. I had already suffered several bruises after the attack by the prison guards, and I was shivering all the time, while the cold air that was directed at me never stopped. I barely slept those four days.”

Then the “prison administration’s pretext for this torture is added that he tried to ‘smuggle’ a letter to his wife!”

“Abdullah Ibhais has exhausted all legal channels as Doha has failed him,” the statement read. “From the very beginning, he was denied the chance of a fair trial, he was questioned without a lawyer by the state security police, in a case which they admitted does not concern state security.

“Abdullah was denied access to information about his case for a year while awaiting court. Abdullah was allowed to defend himself orally in only a single instance in the three courts before which he stood; his lawyer was only allowed to speak for five minutes.

“Our beloved Abdullah courageously stood up for his conscience, for his family, for his children and for a country he believed was leading by example by hosting the first World Cup in an Arab state. He was not afraid to challenge his superiors. Abdullah tried to show Qatar in its best light, admit its mistakes and do justice to them and all the migrant workers who suffered as a result. We never thought he would become a political prisoner. Abdullah used FIFA’s own systems to speak out; instead he has been punished.

The statement goes on to criticize Fifa and Infantino in the strongest terms.

“We, the family of Abdullah Ibhais, call out Fifa and its president, Gianni Infantino, who once said that the World Cup is the voice of the marginalized. Your actions have not lived up to your words. FIFA is complicit in Abdullah’s imprisonment and FIFA’s silence tears our family apart. We refuse FIFA’s callous indifference. We refuse to back down: today we call on FIFA to take responsibility and finally admit to this violation of human rights.”

The statement also claims what they believe is the most important factor in his imprisonment.

“However, the real cause is the broadcast of the documentary “Qatar: A State of Fear?” on ITV1 in the UK, where Abdullah’s case was one of the main cases presented. The Qatari embassy in London sent its response to ITV1’s request for comment on Oct. 30. Abdullah was in solitary confinement two days later, a day before the broadcast.”

The Independent has contacted FIFA for comment.

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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