The detained former Qatar World Cup official Abdullah Ibhais has repeated his claims of innocence as he enters the 17th day of a hunger strike in prison. Ibhais was seized by Qatari authorities last month and returned to jail while he awaits the outcome of an appeal against charges of bribery and a prison sentence of five years.
The former deputy communications director in Qatar’s World Cup Supreme Committee has been denied communications since his arrest, according to his family. On Thursday, however, a voice note apparently recorded in his cell was published by the Dutch newspaper NRC with an audibly weakened Ibhais discussing his resolve to pursue his hunger strike “until I am proven innocent”.
In the note Ibhais said: “I’ve gone on a hunger strike because for me this was the last resort after I was denied the chance to a fair trial.
“I was denied the chance to be heard, I was denied the chance to speak up and after all I was detained whilst my trial has not finished yet. I was detained just to make sure that I don’t speak up, that I do not talk, that I do not defend myself, that I do not reveal the true story behind what happened to me.
“It is hard, it is very hard, and it is weakening, but this is my last resort and I am going to go through with it until I am proven innocent. Because this is how things are, I am innocent and I have done nothing wrong.”
Ibhais was found guilty and sentenced in April in a trial over accusations he had taken payments to influence the awarding of a contract to deliver social media for the World Cup. The Jordanian national signed a confession which he later recanted and he denies the claims.
In an interview published with the Norwegian magazine Josimar, Ibhais said the confession had been extracted under duress, that he had not been given access to a lawyer and that the charges had been brought after he raised concerns over striking migrant workers in the country. Days after giving the interview, Ibhais – who had been released pending an appeal – was detained again. The process of his appeal began on 23 November.
In a statement released to the Guardian two weeks ago the Qatari Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy said: “Abdullah Ibhais’s claim that he was targeted for taking a position on a labour-related matter is a fabrication and a lie.
“The allegations presented by Ibhais have no credibility. The case against Ibhais is rooted in evidence [of alleged manipulation and misuse of state funds], and has absolutely nothing to do with personal opinions or actions on labour-related matters.”