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FIFA urged to ensure Qatar gives fair trial to detained World Cup worker

Human rights organisations have condemned Qatar's 'unfair' treatment of Abdullah Ibhais, who has been on hunger strike for three weeks
Abdullah Ibhais has been denied his request to retract his confession which he said was extracted under threat and coercion by public prosecutors (Screengrab/Twitter)

Human rights organisations have demanded that a Jordanian former World Cup employee be given a fair trial as he enters the 21st day of a hunger strike at a Qatari prison.

Abdullah Ibhais, the former deputy communications director for Qatar's World Cup Supreme Committee, was arrested in November 2019 and detained for six weeks on allegations of "harming the state or its security" after he raised concerns about striking migrant workers in Qatar.

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In April 2021 he was sentenced to five years in prison for offences including bribery and the misuse of funds.

Then, this November, while in the process of appealing against the verdict, he was taken into custody.

Protesting his innocence, Ibhais began a hunger strike, now in its third week.

Dutch newspaper NRC published a voice note reportedly recorded by Ibhais in his cell, discussing his decision to continue the strike until he is proven innocent.

"I've gone on a hunger strike because for me this was the last resort after I was denied the chance to a fair trial," Ibhais is heard saying in the voice note.

"I was denied the chance to be heard, I was denied the chance to speak up and, after all, I was detained whilst my trial has not finished yet."

Fair trial

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and human rights group FairSquare have written to both FIFA and Qatar urging them to ensure Ibhais is granted a fair trial.

Interrogators coerced Ibhais into confessing to charges of bribery and misuse of state funds in late 2019, Ibhais told Norwegian magazine Josimar.

During the interrogation, public prosecuters told him, "Either you sign a confession here or we send you to State Security, where they know how to get a confession out of you," he said.

Ibhais added that he was not allowed access to a lawyer.

According to HRW, Ibhais retracted his confession in court, the only evidence presented against him. But the court rejected his pleas to annul the confession.

No evidence of any wrongdoing was has been produced by either the Qatari authorities or his employer, the World Cup's Supreme Committee. 

"Qatari authorities appear to have robbed Abdullah Ibhais of his right to a fair trial in proceedings that raise serious concerns about Qatar’s justice system," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director of HRW on 5 October.

"The authorities should immediately investigate allegations that his confession was coerced and whether the Supreme Committee used the justice system to retaliate against an employee for internal criticism."

FIFA issued a brief response on 8 November saying, "It is FIFA's position that any person deserves a trial that is fair and where due process is observed and respected."

For HRW and FairSquare, the football association has not done enough.

"If FIFA refuses to step in and advocate for Ibhais to receive a fair trial not based on a coerced confession, it appears that its human rights policy isn’t worth the paper it’s written on," said Page of HRW.