ZURICH: Bahraini opposition and human rights groups have condemned the approval of Skeikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa among the five candidates to stand for the presidency of world football federation FIFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The Bahraini president of the Asian Football Confederation is among five men who have been judged, by the FIFA electorial committee, to have successfully passed an integrity check.

Sheikh Salman is also the most controversial of the quintet because of allegations that in 2011 he chaired a committee which identified footballers among pro-democracy demonstrators who were subsequently detained and tortured.

The 49-year-old, a member of the ruling royal family and head of the Bahrain Football Association until 2013, has denounced the claims as “nasty lies.”

FIFA’s ethics committee has apparently considered evidence submitted by protest groups as insufficient to deny approval to Sheikh Salman, even though the integrity yardsticks include human rights violations.

This has angered the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy as well as Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain which had submitted the critical evidence.

A statement from BIRD said the groups were “shocked and condemn the decision that has severely undermined any remaining trust in FIFA and the ethics committee integrity checks.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD’s director of advocacy, said: “FIFA wants a blank slate from corruption, so we were keen to help them with the submission of our evidence. Yet it has fallen on deaf ears. Today’s decision is a black mark on world football.”

He added: “It seems there is no end to the corruption in FIFA and they have just added ‘human rights abuser’ to their profile.”

The 22-page dossier from NGOs to FIFA presented official reports by the Bahrain News Agency, the official press arm of the Ministry of Information, concerning the BFA’s involvement in sanctioning Arab Spring protesters in February-April 2011.

A spokesman for Sheikh Salman said recently: “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.”

Statements from the Bahrian News Agency at the time had appeared to contradict this assertion.

Husain Abdulla, the executive director of ADHRB, said: “The lie here is FIFA’s commitment to reform. It does not make sense for an organisation caught in scandal to then allow a man with a record like Sheikh Salman’s to run for its leadership.

“FIFA has completely missed the mark today and its integrity checks have been exposed as a farce.”

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