FIFA candidate denies role in punishing protesting athletes

Thu Oct 29, 2015 6:14pm EDT
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By Simon Evans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa denied on Thursday he had ever been involved in investigating and prosecuting athletes active in Bahrain's democracy protests in 2011.

Britain's Guardian newspaper cited on Tuesday a 2011 Bahrain News Agency article stating that Salman, who is now president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), had been appointed to "lead the investigation committee".

Since announcing on Monday that he will run for FIFA president, Salman has faced strident criticism from human rights groups who say he had local soccer players arrested, detained, abused, tortured and publicly humiliated during the protests while he was head of the Bahrain Football Association.

"Recent allegations are entirely false and categorically denied by Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa," he said in a statement.

"While it was proposed that Sheikh Salman lead a fact-finding committee in relation to the events of 2011, that committee was never formally established and never conducted any business whatsoever."

"Sheikh Salman had absolutely no involvement in the identification, investigation, prosecution or mistreatment of any individuals, as has been alleged," it said.

Salman, 49, is expected to win the bulk of support among the 47 members of the AFC in the race to lead FIFA, which has been reeling since May when the United States indicted several FIFA officials for bribery, money laundering and wire fraud.

Swiss authorities are also investigating the decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.   Continued...

New Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa speaks during a news conference during an AFC Extraordinary Congress in Kuala Lumpur May 2, 2013. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad