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Friday, June 24, 2011

Bahraini soccer player sentenced for participating in anti-government protests

A detained Bahraini national soccer team player has been sentenced to two years in prison for participating earlier this year in anti-government protests, the Gulf island’s main opposition Al Wefaq party said.

In a statement, the party said that Mohammed Hubail was convicted and sentenced on Thursday during closed-door proceedings in a Bahraini special security court. The court was set up under martial law imposed in March to quell Shiite-led demonstrations against Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy.

Eight of Mr. Hubail's co-defendants were jailed for life on charges of attempting to topple the Bahraini monarchy and having links to a foreign terrorist organisation. Ten others were sentenced to 15 years each.

Another defendant got two years after being acquitted of all charges against him, except taking part in illegal gatherings and spreading rumours and lies.
At least two of his teammates, including Mr. Hubail's brother and Bahrain soccer star Alaa, have been in custody since the crackdown began.

Alaa, a 28-year old striker, played a key role in helping Bahrain reach the 2004 Asian Cup semi-finals, the national team's greatest achievement to date.
He was also instrument in Bahrain playing two World Cup qualifying play-offs even though it failed to reach the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany or the 2010 ones in South Africa .

More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees, including national soccer team player Sayed Mohamed Adnan, who was nominated for the 2009 Asian Player of The Year award  have also been suspended for their alleged involvement in protests.
Messrs. Hubail and Mr. Adnan were also sacked from their clubs for the participation in the protests.
Remarkably, world soccer body FIFA has yet to intervene on behalf of the three soccer players. FIFA bans political interference in soccer.

Bahrain has denied that the arrests violate FIFA rules.

Bahrain officials blame the protests on Iranian interference in the Gulf island's affairs. Bahrain invited troops from the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups the region's conservative oil-rich monarchies, to help it quell the unrest.

The brutally squashed protests were part of a wave of demonstrations sweeping the Middle East and North Africa in demand of greater political freedom and economic opportunity.

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