The involvement of the Bahraini Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa as a leading figure in Fifa’s committee that will determine whether the 2022 World Cup finals should be moved from its traditional summer date is a controversial one given previous allegations made against him over human rights issues.
Three Bahraini human rights organisations have written to Fifa asking for Salman’s nomination as head of the Asian Football Confederation to be overturned, claiming he was involved in the arrest and torture of Bahraini players following the pro-democracy demonstrations in the country two years ago. Salman has always denied any wrongdoing.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights wrote to Sepp Blatter earlier this year, saying that Salman “is involved in human rights violations with the assistance of his office and consultants against players, administrators, referees and clubs who participated in the democracy protests in February 2011. We would like to bring to your kind attention the most important acts of revenge carried out by Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa against groups that are affiliated with football.”
After his election as AFC president in May – the role had come vacant after Mohamed bin Hammam was forced out following corruption allegations – Salman responded vigorously to the allegations, that he identified players who had taken part in demonstrations.
He said: “I just have one question: You talk about allegations, but the question is, do you have the proof? Somebody talks about the government, I don’t think this is our business in football. If anybody has the proof that the Bahrain Football Association has violated the statutes of Fifa or AFC then present it. Otherwise we move on.”
A number of Bahraini sportsmen were arrested and imprisoned for taking part in the demonstrations in 2011. One Bahraini international footballer, Mohammed Hubail, was sentenced to two years in prison. Salman has been president of the Bahrain Football Association since 2002.
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