Iraq appeals to Bahrain for footballer’s release
Iraq appealed to Bahraini authorities to release an Iraqi
football player who was detained in the Gulf kingdom this year
during anti-government protests, Iraqi football officials and
diplomats said Sunday.
The president of the Iraqi Football Association, Najeh Hamoud,
told The Associated Press that Baghdad is trying to ”secure the
release” of Zulfiqar Naji, a 16-year-old player on the junior team
for Bahraini club Al Muharraq.
”We are working quietly on this matter with Bahrain’s
government and with Bahraini sports representatives,” Hamoud
The player’s father, Abdulameer Naji, told the AP in a phone
interview on Sunday that his son was taken into custody from their
Bahrain home in April on suspicion of participating in protests
against the monarchy.
Abdulameer Naji denied his son took part in demonstrations.
”He never left the house, he was always at home,” the player’s
father said. ”He was arrested because some of his friends in
prison mentioned his name when they were questioned. They said that
their friend, Zulfiqar, was in protests on the street. But he was
Bahraini football and government officials could not immediately
be reached to comment.
Iraq’s Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abbawi confirmed the
country’s ongoing efforts to obtain the release of the young player
from Bahrain’s custody.
”The Iraqi foreign ministry asked in a letter to Bahraini
foreign ministry about the case of Iraqi football player, arrested
in Bahrain,” Abbawi told the AP on the phone Sunday.
”We are following up this subject and efforts continue to
secure his release,” Abbawi said.
At least three players for Bahrain’s national team have been
detained since February when Bahrain’s Shiite majority started a
wave of demonstrations for greater freedoms in the Sunni-ruled
island nation. One of them was sentenced to 2 years in prison.
Hundreds of opposition supporters, protesters and at least 150
athletes and sports officials have been detained since Bahrain
imposed martial law in March to quell dissent. Dozens have been
tried in a special security tribunal with military prosecutors,
including Bahrain’s two national team players, Mohammed and Alaa
Earlier this month, Mohammed Hubail received a two-year prison
sentence for joining anti-government protests.
Bahrain has lifted emergency rule in June. The country’s Sunni
rulers also halted trials in the military-linked tribunal and
shifted all protest-related detainees to civilian courts.
The Hubail brothers have been released from custody earlier this
month, although authorities have not dropped the charges against
Last week FIFA said Bahraini football officials had given the
sport’s governing body assurances that national team players
haven’t been disciplined during political turmoil in the Gulf