Qatar World Cup: Abdullah Ibhais loses appeal as bribery conviction is upheld
Human rights groups say Ibhais has not had a fair trial
Abdullah Ibhais, a former media manager for Qatar's 2022 World Cup committee, has been jailed for three years after losing his appeal against a conviction for corruption.
Ibhais, a Jordanian national, was sentenced by a court in Qatar's capital, Doha, after a guilty verdict on the charge of misappropriating state funds was upheld.
Ibhais has claimed he is being punished for expressing concerns over the country's treatment of migrant workers. He has also said he has been coerced into a confession by security forces.
Qatari officials have denied Ibhais' claims, insisting "an abundance of strong and credible evidence" led to his conviction.
Several human rights groups - including Human Rights Watch and FairSquare - say Ibhais did not get a fair trial and that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on his part. They have been critical over the lack of action from FIFA, who they have repeatedly urged to intervene.
The Supreme Committee, the body overseeing preparations for the World Cup which Ibhais worked for, said it received a complaint alleging corruption in October of 2019 from a third party. It related to the management of its social media platforms.
Ibhais and another employee were suspended on full pay as a result of an internal investigation. The findings were then passed on to Qatari authorities.
Ibhais was reportedly arrested the next month on the basis of allegations that he was engaged in activities aimed at "harming the state or its security".
Speaking to Human Rights Watch and FairSquare, Ibhais later said that he was forced by interrogators to confess to lesser charges and that he was not permitted to have access to a lawyer while being questioned. He also alleged that his prosecution was related to his criticism of the Supreme Committee's handling of a migrant worker strike over unpaid wages, which was held in August 2019.
During his trial in April, he retracted the confession. The court, however, refused to accept this and found him guilty of "bribery", "violation of the integrity of tenders and profits", and "intentional damage to public funds". He was given five years in prison.
Ibhais was detained by his police last month and went on hunger strike while awaiting his appeal hearing. At the time of his arrest, he was reportedly due to be interviewed by two Norwegian journalists who themselves were arrested by Qatari security forces for over 24 hours for allegedly trespassing and filming without the correct permits.
Ibhais was not in court for his appeal hearing on Wednesday, which is reported to have lasted less than a minute.