News 16th December 2015

ISSF: Sheikh Ahmad’s jail sentence may be political move

The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) has said that a six-month jail sentence handed to Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, may represent an ‘escalation’ of political wrangling over control of sport in the country. A number of ‘incidents’ around a December 2014 campaign by Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Homud Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti Minister of Sports and Youth, would now be ‘discussed and investigated by the ISSF Ethics Committee’, read a statement.

Kuwait was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in October, to protect sport from ‘undue Government interference’. Seventeen other international federations, including FIFA, followed suit. The suspensions mean that Kuwait cannot take part in qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and could even mean Kuwaiti athletes could be banned from competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Government officials have reportedly threatened banning athletes from competing under the Olympic Flag if the Kuwait Olympic Committee (KOC)’s suspension is not lifted.

Sheikh Ahmad was convicted of disobeying a prosecutor’s gag order by discussing a video involving a purported plot to overthrow the government, reports the Associated Press. Sheikh Ahmad is President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which is located in Kuwait City, and is also a member of the IOC and FIFA’s Executive Committee. It is understood that OCA officials have been told they must leave the country by April 2016.

‘From the ISSF perspective, this dispute began when ISSF President Olegario Vazquez Raña prevailed against the Kuwaiti Minister of Sports and Youth, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Homud Al-Sabah in the ISSF Presidential election in December 2014’, read the ISSF statement, which added that Sheikh Salman had unsuccessfully appealed the election result at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). ‘Sheikh Salman refused to initiate a change of Kuwaiti state laws to guarantee the autonomy of sport in Kuwait despite intensive attempts by the IOC to convince him to do so […] The ISSF experienced already during Sheikh Salman’s campaign to become ISSF President in 2014 that he showed little sensitivity for a democratic process, the autonomy of sports and ethical behaviour within an election process.’

The ISSF said that it would investigate:

• a letter sent from Sheikh Salman to the South African Minister for Youth and Sports, in which he allegedly asked for support for his Presidential campaign;
• invitations allegedly sent by the Kuwait Shooting Federation (KSF) offering to pay for teams to attend a January 2015 event;
• letters allegedly sent offering ‘financial assistance’ to federations in attending the ISSF General Assembly 2014; and
• allegations that Sheikh Salman paid the membership fees of several federations.

Sheikh Ahmad’s jail sentence is understood to be based on a historical political dispute involving allegations of corruption involving former Prime Minister, Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah and his Parliamentary speaker, Jassem al-Karafi. An investigation into the recordings by Kuwaiti security agencies reportedly found the video recordings to be unauthentic, suggesting they had been tampered with, despite a Swiss court finding otherwise. Sheikh Ahmad later accused the public prosecutor of overlooking evidence. Prosecutors placed a gag order on the case – understood to be the gag order Sheikh Ahmad has been accused of breaching.

It is understood that Sheikh Ahmad could play a key role in the upcoming FIFA Presidential election on 26 February 2016. He is a supporter of Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa from Bahrain, one of five candidates admitted by FIFA.

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