His family said a former employee of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizing committee, who has been jailed on disputed corruption charges, is facing new legal action after his former bosses withheld severance payments, meaning he will default on a loan.
Abdullah Abhais, a former media director, was sentenced last year to three years in prison for embezzling state funds – a charge he insists were made up as punishment for him for criticizing his handling of the migrant workers’ strike.
Ibhais now faces the prospect of a new lawsuit, and possibly another prison sentence, relating to a bank loan that he can no longer service because money owed to him at the end of his business has not been paid. Ibhais and his family claim that withholding funds amounts to financial pressure, as he continues to allege his imprisonment for his views on the treatment of migrant workers.
The case has attracted widespread international attention since Abhaes, a Jordanian, was convicted of corruption last August. It also shed new light on the conditions faced by the workers who built the World Cup stadiums in Qatar over the past six years. Ibhais lost an appeal against his conviction in December and continued to protest his innocence.
A Qatari judge alleged that Abhaes received a bribe when he bid for a contract on social media. However, no evidence was presented to the court to prove his guilt. The evidence supporting his conviction was a confession that Ibhis made and has since retracted.
Qatari officials deny any political component to the ruling, due process was followed at trial and more evidence was presented in court.
Documents obtained by Dutch newspaper NRC show that the governing body for the 2022 World Cup, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, wrote to Ibhais when he was sacked in June 2020 claiming that his termination benefits would be paid. His family told the newspaper that that had not happened yet.
His brother Ziad Abhais said, “They punished him because he did not want to cover up the misery of the migrant workers.” Ten months ago, Ibhais was asked to add his weight to the claim that the strike of 5,000 migrant workers over unpaid wages had nothing to do with World Cup preparations. However, he objected, refusing the increasing pressure throughout the day to make a statement that would put a distance between the organizers and the strike.
He was arrested three months later and taken to the headquarters of a criminal investigation. Despite attempts to reform the safety and working conditions of the workforce that prepared stadiums in Qatar, human rights organizations say a slew of legislative changes have yet to lead to tangible improvements.
About 90% of Qatar’s population of 2.6 million are foreigners, many of them workers who have worked for more than five years, often in sweltering temperatures, to finish stadiums and infrastructure support in time for the World Cup that begins on 21 . November.