Shaikh Ahmad Fahad Al Sabah, one of the most powerful figures in football and the Olympics, vowed Friday to fight a six-month jail term imposed in Kuwait for insulting the judiciary.
Shaikh Ahmad, a member of the FIFA executive committee and the International Olympic Committee, was sentenced to jail by a lower court on Thursday, local media said.
The Shaikh, also president of the Olympic Council of Asia, was convicted of casting doubt on the integrity of the judiciary, insulting the public prosecution and threatening public order in a television interview three years ago, Al Qabas newspaper reported.
The case has erupted in the weeks after Fifa and the IOC suspended Kuwait for government interference in sport. The Shaikh said he is appealing against the jail term and a 1,000 dinar (Dh12,111) fine and denied any wrongdoing.
“This is a personal attack and unfortunately is symptomatic of the current relationship between Kuwait and the sports movement,” the Shaikh said in a statement released by the OCA.
“Under Kuwait’s Democratic Constitution, it is my right to express my opinion freely, and that is all that I have done,” he added.
“I have fought against all forms of corruption and promoted freedom of speech all my life - when I was in the military, when I was in the government and now within the sports movement.
“I will continue to protect the value of democracy, freedom of right of speech and the autonomy of the sports.”
The OCA statement said the 55-year-old royal had been “personally targeted for criticisms he made on the general situation in Kuwait during a television interview three years ago.”
It added that new sports laws “which threatened the autonomy of sport in Kuwait were introduced in response to the outcome of the last International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) elections in December 2014 and have led the IOC to suspend the Kuwait Olympic Committee on October 27, 2015.”
Shaikh Salman Al Sabah, Kuwait’s information minister and former head of the Asian Shooting Confederation, lost the 2014 election to lead the world shooting federation.
“Certain individuals who introduced these sports laws have further sought to seek retribution on the OCA for the suspension,” the statement added.
“These individuals are also threatening to ban Kuwaiti athletes from being able to compete at international events - including the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”
The Fifa suspension means Kuwait cannot take part in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and the IOC suspension means that Kuwaiti athletes could be barred from Rio next year.
The IOC executive discussed the Kuwait crisis at a meeting in Lausanne this week.
“We had an exchange of letters which have not been very helpful, 13 international federations have followed since our suspension,” said IOC member Patrick Hickey.
“We are trying to find a peaceful solution, it’s embarrassing,” he added.