World Cup whistleblower’s family accuse Fifa of being complicit in his imprisonment in Qatar

Abdullah Ibhais criticised the handling of a strike by migrant workers and is serving a prison term for bribery

The family of Abdullah Ibhais, the former deputy communications director on the World Cup supreme committee for delivery and legacy who claims to have been tortured by the Qatari authorities while in prison, has accused Fifa of being “complicit” in Ibhais’ three-year imprisonment for bribery.

Ibhais, a whistleblower who was arrested in November 2019 and sentenced to jail in April 2021 over allegations of bribery and misuse of funds, subsequently retracted the signed confession used to convict him. He has alleged that he is being persecuted for criticising the handling of a strike by migrant workers in Qatar in August 2019.

“We, the family of Abdullah Ibhais, are calling out Fifa and its president, Gianni Infantino, who once said the World Cup is the voice of the marginalised,” said the Ibhais family in a statement read by James Lynch, co-founder of the Fair Square human rights group. “Your deeds haven’t lived up to your words.”

They also claim that Ibhais was “assaulted, put into solitary and tortured with cold temperature to silence his voice” during the World Cup.


“Fifa is complicit in Abdullah’s imprisonment and Fifa’s silence is tearing apart our family. We refuse Fifa’s callous indifference. We refuse to back down: we’re calling today on Fifa to take responsibility and finally own up to this human rights travesty.

“We never thought Abdullah would become a political prisoner. He used Fifa’s own systems to speak up, instead he is being punished.”

Fifa have been asked to respond to the Ibhais family letter.

On the eve of the tournament Infantino said he felt “gay” and “disabled,” and that he understood the plight of migrant workers because he was bullied as a child for having red hair and freckles. He released a recorded statement on Wednesday noting that Qatar 2022 has been a “fantastic success” which prompted Nicholas McGeehan, of Fair Square, to comment on the Fifa president’s recent behaviour.

“Infantino’s conduct leaves you stretching for adjectives to describe just how badly this man is misgoverning the game,” said McGeehan. “He appears entirely deluded as to his status and appears unwilling to exert any sort of positive influence on the game. His conduct in the last few months has been shameful. He has been a disgrace to Fifa.

“All legal channels for Abdullah to be freed are now closed,” McGeehan continued. “The bigger development arguably is that today his family submitted an urgent appeal to the UN working group on arbitrary detention.

“The UN group look at the legality of detentions. If states do not respond the group can publish an opinion stating the detention is illegal essentially. This case directly implicates the World Cup organisers, both the supreme committee and Fifa, which is why we are announcing this in the middle of the Qatar World Cup.

“What is remarkable about Abdullah and his case is how much information he supplied us with. He supplied us with a lot of evidence to support his claims.”

Ibhais, who has been imprisoned since November 2021, is a Jordanian national with two sons aged four and six.

Qatar has denied the claims and insisted Ibhais was convicted on the basis of “an abundance of strong and credible evidence”.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent