FIFA wants info on Bahrain arrests

Updated: June 24, 2011, 2:23 PM ET
Associated Press

ZURICH -- FIFA wants Bahrain soccer officials to give details of cases involving players detained during political protests, with the Gulf kingdom facing an investigation for government interference in the sport.

Bahrain authorities reportedly sentenced national team player Mohammed Hubail to two years in prison on Thursday.

Star player Alaa Hubail, Mohammed's brother, also went on trial Thursday in the same security court for allegedly taking part in anti-government demonstrations.

More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees have been suspended since martial law was imposed in March to quell Shiite-led opposition to the Sunni monarchy.

The trials "appear to bear the marks of political persecution," the United Nations human rights office in Geneva said Friday.

"There are serious concerns that the due process rights of the defendants, many of whom are well-known human rights defenders, were not respected," the U.N agency said in a statement.

FIFA said Friday in a statement it had contacted the Bahrain Football Association in May for information.

"However, we have no specific official information on this matter at the moment," the world soccer body said.

FIFA rules give it the power to suspend countries whose politicians meddle in soccer's affairs.

Bahrain FA president Sheik Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa is a member of the ruling royal family.

The Hubail brothers appeared at closed-door court sessions on the same day that Bahrain's under-23 team advanced in qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics by defeating Palestine in Ramallah.

A FIFA suspension could jeopardize Bahrain's participation in the next round of Asian Olympic qualifiers, which begins in September.

Bahrain also is scheduled to take part in the 2014 World Cup qualifying draw being conducted July 30 in Rio de Janeiro.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press