ZURICH (Reuters) - Suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter again proclaimed his innocence in a corruption scandal gripping the world soccer body as he prepares to testify this week before the group’s ethics panel.
“I will fight on for my rights and at the end of this week present my view before the adjudicatory chamber with great conviction and a firm belief in justice,” he said in a letter to FIFA members released to the media.
“I am suspended but not isolated and not at all mute.”
FIFA ethics investigators in November called for sanctions against Blatter and European (UEFA) soccer chief Michel Platini, both of whom were suspended from their posts for 90 days on Oct. 8 pending a full investigation.
Blatter reiterated that a 2 million Swiss franc ($2.02 million) payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011 -- when Blatter was running for re-election -- was legitimate and resulted from a verbal contract for work Platini had done for the organization years before.
He said the way the ethics committee’s investigative arm had pursued the case was “tendentious and dangerous. This trial reminds me of the Inquisition,” he wrote.
Blatter is due to testify on Thursday and Platini on Friday. FIFA’s ethics panel is set to rule on their cases next week, and could impose much longer bans than the provisional suspensions if it finds the men guilty of violations.
U.S. prosecutors have charged 41 people and entities in an inquiry into soccer corruption. Soccer bosses from throughout the Americas are among the defendants in a case that prosecutors say involves $200 million in bribes and kickbacks tied to the marketing of major tournaments and matches.
Blatter is also the subject of a criminal investigation in his native Switzerland over the Platini payment.
The avalanche of corruption allegations prompted Blatter to say in June he would resign, only days after being re-elected to a fifth term. Blatter has not been charged with a crime.
Blatter’s comments came in the traditional end-of-year letter to FIFA members he has sent for 17 years, but this time on his own stationery.
Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Mark Heinrich