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France

French footballer trapped in Qatar to sue emir's brother

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-03

French footballer Zahir Belounis plans to sue the brother of Qatar's ruling emir on charges including fraud and extortion after being forced to remain in the Gulf state for 17 months and losing up to €150,000 in pay, his lawyer said Tuesday.

French footballer Zahir Belounis plans to sue the brother of Qatar's ruling emir after being forced to remain in the Gulf state for 17 months and losing up to €150,000 in pay, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Belounis was not able to leave the 2022 World Cup host nation due to a pay dispute with his al Jaish football club, whose chairman, Sheikh Joaan Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmad al-Thani, is the ruling emir's brother.

The footballer was only able to return to France in late November after obtaining an exit visa, which is usually granted only by employers in Qatar under its controversial kafala, or sponsorship, system.

To obtain the authorisation to leave, Belounis had to sign a letter back-dated to February announcing his sacking and forego a contract that was due to run until June 2015, thereby losing out on up to €150,000 ($200,000) in remuneration.

The French-Algerian footballer, 33, initially moved to Qatar in 2007 to sign for second-division al Jaish and was even granted Qatari citizenship, enabling him to represent the country in the 2011 World Military Cup in Brazil.

But the club stopped paying his wages in 2012 and Belounis decided to file a legal action in February, after which Belounis said he was "blackmailed".

Belounis's lawyer, Frank Berton, said a suit will be filed in Paris for fraud, inhuman working conditions and extortion.

Others named in the suit would include Gamaan al Hamad, the president of Qatar's Military Sport Association, he said.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the only Gulf states that continue to require an exit visa from foreign employees who want to leave the country.

Human Rights Watch has denounced the kafala system as abusive.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2013-12-03

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