Kuwait sues Sheikh Ahmad

KUWAIT CITY • Kuwait's government is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in sport, over the Gulf state's isolation in international sport.

The sheikh, a member of the Fifa executive committee, a top International Olympic Committee member and head of Asia's Olympic body, is one of a number of Kuwaiti officials targeted in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

The suit accuses Sheikh Ahmad, who also faces a separate six-month jail term, his brother Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Sabah and 13 other officials of deliberately causing the suspension of Kuwait from international sport.

Fifa and the IOC suspended Kuwait in October over laws that allow government interference in sports. Sixteen other international federations have also blacklisted Kuwait, which risks not taking part in the Rio Olympics in August.

The government is demanding temporary damages of US$16,500 (S$23,600), which if granted by a court will allow authorities to seek greater damages of US$1.3 billion, according to Al-Rai newspaper.

The government says in the lawsuit that it has spent more than US$1.3 billion on local sports in the past five years. The Kuwaiti government has repeatedly said the country's laws are in line with international sports charters.

It is the third time since 2007 that Fifa and the IOC have suspended Kuwait for alleged government interference. If the suspension remains, it will prevent Kuwait qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Sheikh Ahmad is fighting an appeal against a six-month jail term for insulting the judiciary.

He and his brother are nephews of Kuwait's ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Kuwait sues Sheikh Ahmad'. Print Edition | Subscribe