Zahir Belounis: Striker to sue his two former Qatari clubs for fraud, extortion of money and inhuman working conditions

French player arrived back from Qatar last week after being allegedly being stranded there for 17 months

Zahir Belounis plans to sue his two former Qatari clubs for fraud, extortion of money and inhuman working conditions.

The French-Algerian football player and his lawyer, Frank Berton, said at a press conference on Tuesday they intend to file lawsuits against the Military Sport Association president Gamaan Al-Hamad and Al-Jaish president Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani.

"The lawsuits will be filed with the Paris prosecutor's office," Berton said. "We hope that the Paris prosecutor will open an investigation."

Belounis played for the Military Sport Association from 2007 to 2010 before joining Al-Jaish.

His case has helped bring to international notice the labor laws in Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup. Under Qatar's kafala sponsorship system, workers need permission from their employers to leave the country.

"A few years ago, I would have never thought that I could be the prisoner of a sponsor," Belounis said. "They destroy you if things turn bad. It's a big fight to be heard and leave the country because the sponsor does whatever he wants."

Belounis returned to France only last week after he was denied an exit visa for months because of a legal dispute over unpaid wages.

Belounis said he was last paid in June 2011. He hired a lawyer in October 2012 to have his club pay his wages, but that initiative gave no result, so he pursued legal action in February.

Stranded in Qatar with his wife and their two daughters, Belounis sank into depression and contemplated suicide.

"They hurt me, my wife and my two daughters," Belounis said. "I can't forgive that."

His demand for an exit visa was first denied in February. Belounis said he was allowed to leave the country only because he accepted signing a letter of dismissal backdated to February that deprived him of his wages from that month to the end of his contract in June 2015. Qatari officials refused to give him that document but some French diplomats witnessed the signing, Belounis said.

France President Francois Hollande traveled to the Persian Gulf to meet Belounis in June, but the player received no support from Fifa President Sepp Blatter, who visited Qatar last month.

"I'm angry with all the people who could have helped me and who looked at this case from afar," Belounis said.

"When Blatter arrived in Qatar, I was telling myself that he could meet me at least. But no, there are more important matters than Zahir Belounis. That collateral damage means nothing," Belounis said. "Of course, I'm angry. Especially since he met people who can get me out of the country within 24 hours. And he did nothing."

Fifa said it was not involved in the case because Belounis did not pursue his claim through its judicial body, the dispute resolution chamber.

When Blatter left Qatar, a United Nations delegation recommended abolishing the kafala system after completing a week-long inspection visit to assess conditions for migrant workers.

AP

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor