Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has been fully acquitted by Kuwait’s Supreme Court on charges of insulting the judiciary. The ANOC President had been sentenced to six months in prison in December 2015 by a lower court for comments he had made in a television interview three years earlier. Sheikh Ahmad vehemently denied any wrongdoing and vowed to continue “to protect the value of democracy, freedom of right of speech and the autonomy of the sport.”
In January this year, the Court of Appeal in Kuwait overturned the sentence and the Supreme Court yesterday upheld the acquittal, which cannot now be appealed. Sheikh Ahmad has maintained from the onset that the sentence was a personal attack; symptomatic of the current relationship between Kuwait and the sports movement. Relations between the sports movement and Kuwait’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem AlHomud Al-Sabah have been strained since Sheikh Salman failed in his attempt to become President of the International Shooting Sport Federation in 2014. Sheikh Salman blamed Sheikh Ahmad and his allies for the defeat and even asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to cancel the election but the appeal was dismissed by CAS.
Sheikh Salman went on to introduce sports laws which threatened the autonomy of sport in Kuwait and as a result of these new laws, the IOC suspended the Kuwait Olympic Committee in October 2015 and 17 International Federations, including FIFA, suspended their respective Kuwaiti National Federations. In January, faced with the prospect that Kuwait would not participate in Rio 2016, the Kuwait government filed law suits against Sheikh Ahmad and other members of the Kuwait Olympic Committee for $1.3 billion in compensation.
Any chance of Kuwait athletes competing under their nation’s flag at Rio 2016 was quashed last month after the Kuwait National Assembly approved laws which allow for even greater government interference, with the government empowered to dissolve all sporting bodies in Kuwait and give dissenters up to three years in prison. According to sport intern sources, the situation is unlikely to improve before the parliamentary elections in June 2017.
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.