A former Qatar 2022 media manager has been jailed for three years ©Getty Images

A former media manager for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup has been sentenced to three years in prison, with human rights groups alleging a lack of a fair trial.

Abdullah Ibhais was detained last month amid claims he was facing retaliation for criticism of Qatar 2022’s handling of a strike by migrant workers in 2019.

The claim had been countered with a sentence alleged to have centred on fraud charges related to a social media contract for the tournament.

Ibhais, who previously served as deputy communications director for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for Qatar 2022, was initially given a five-year jail term which was reduced on appeal to three years.

Ibhais remains on hunger strike in Qatar.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for Qatar 2022 has rejected the claim that Ibhais' sentence is retaliation for his views on migrant workers.

"Ibhais’s post-conviction allegations that the Supreme Committee conspired against him because of his views on migrant workers are ludicrous, defamatory, and absolutely false,” the Committee has said.

"The Supreme Committee's work culture promotes and encourages staff raising issues and grievances, and particularly on the subject in question."

Human Rights Watch and FairSquare claim no evidence of wrongdoing has been made public to date and that his confession had been coerced.

Nick McGeehan, director of FairSquare, said the case "goes to the heart of serious issues with Qatar’s World Cup".

FIFA has said it has monitored the case and will consider the ruling before making further comment.

FIFA said it held a round table with Qatar 2022 and human rights experts yesterday ©FIFA
FIFA said it held a round table with Qatar 2022 and human rights experts yesterday ©FIFA

FIFA yesterday announced it had held a meeting to discuss issues related to key topics including workers' welfare and equality concerns, with members of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, representatives of the EU Commission and the United Nations reportedly present.

"We have to acknowledge the enormous progress that has already been achieved," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said following the meeting.

"There are still challenges but the authorities here in Qatar deserve big credit from all of us.

"Issues continue to exist, like in all countries in the world.

"Not everything is perfect in our western world either.

"So we need to push for progress but also support those who want genuinely to make progress, acknowledging that it sometimes takes time."

Qatar's treatment of migrant workers has been under scrutiny as the country prepares to host the World Cup next year.

The Qatari Government has claimed it is making progress on labour reforms, including a shift away from the "kafala system", which forced foreign workers to seek their employers' consent to change jobs or leave the country.

Concerns remain from activists over the enforcement of reforms and unexplained deaths of workers at construction sites.

Football Associations and players have been encouraged to pressure FIFA and Qatar 2022 over the tournament, with human rights groups hopeful it will ensure reforms are fully enforced and a legacy for workers' rights can be achieved through the tournament.

Germany are among the nations to have raised concerns over migrant worker rights prior to the tournament ©Getty Images
Germany are among the nations to have raised concerns over migrant worker rights prior to the tournament ©Getty Images

"The Football Associations need to do their due diligence before the tournament and use their leverage over FIFA," said May Romanos, a researcher on workers' rights in the Gulf region for Amnesty International.

"They need to ensure that their own operations - in this case sending their football teams to Qatar - do not cause or contribute and are not linked to human rights abuses related to their participation in this World Cup.

"Football Associations need to put in place a robust due diligence process to ensure their suppliers of services in Qatar respect human rights, for example by screening and vetting providers and including human rights clauses in contracts.

"They also need to be transparent about their findings and steps they have taken to mitigate identified risks.

"This will allow them to ensure that workers they will engage with during their presence in the country are for instance paid on time and in full and are not facing labour abuses.

"If they fail to do so, they could be linked to labour abuses.

"Players and fans have also a role to play to push Qatar and its partners to improve the situation of migrant workers in the counties.

"We urge players to inform themselves of the situation and be ready to speak out.

"The Football Associations have the main responsible and should do their due diligence."

Denmark last month announced it will wear messages in support of human rights on their training kit during the World Cup, as well as reducing trips to Qatar in the tournament build-up.

Players from The Netherlands and Germany, who have also qualified for the tournament, wore shirts during qualification matches earlier this year regarding migrant rights.

England players are expected to discuss how to highlight rights issues in Qatar prior to the tournament.