29 October 2015 – Fifa presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa denies allegations against him as “nasty lies”, but unseen official releases by the Bahrain Ministry of Information corroborate human rights abuse allegations.
Sheikh Salman’s candidacy to the Fifa presidency has been dogged with accusations of his involvement in identifying and targeting footballers who participated in Bahrain’s pro-democracy protests in 2011. Sheikh Salman was then president of the Bahrain Football Association (BFA).
Talking to the BBC, Sheikh Salman said: “Talking about a committee, about identifying players, etc, do you think that people would need to identify a national team player? Do I need to get involved in that?”
The answer, apparently, is yes. On 7 April 2011, the Bahrain Football Association announced on the state-run Bahrain News Agency that it would sanction and suspend all players, coaches and staff who “violated the law” by attending illegal demonstrations, or “any other action with the objective of removing the regime or insulting national symbols.”
A few days later, on 11 April, the Bahrain News Agency reported the formation of a committee to inquire into athletes’ conduct in the February-March 2011 popular protest movement.
The BNA article, in Arabic, confirms that Sheikh Salman was appointed as the head of the new committee by the son of Bahrain’s King, Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
On 20 April, another report by the state-owned press announced Sheikh Salman’s committee’s decisions to penalise clubs suspected of participating in protests, or which were unable to attend matches due to the heightened security situation. The committee fined six clubs $20,000, suspended them for two years, and relegated two to the 2nd division football league. All six clubs had previously written a joint-letter to the BFA, in February that year, asking to be allowed to temporarily suspend their sporting activities due to the heightened security situation.
Husain Abdulla, Executive Director at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB): “Six clubs wrote a letter pleading to Sheikh Salman to halt activities for the safety of their players. A few months later, Sheikh Salman destroyed them with fines, suspensions and relegation. He then went after their players. He was incapable as head of the Bahrain Football Association and he should not be trusted with the governing of world football.”
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD: “These are not lies. This is the nasty truth that Sheikh Salman can’t avoid any longer. We have said it before and we will say it again, the facts of Sheikh Salman’s involvement in human rights violations is well documented and comes straight from the horse’s mouth.”