A German court has rejected a claim of slander filed by the Qatar Football Association against Theo Zwanziger. The former DFB president had referred to the hosts of the 2022 World Cup as a "cancerous growth."
In the final ruling handed down on Tuesday, the regional court in Düsseldorf found that former DFB (German football association) President Theo Zwanziger's reference to Qatar as a form of cancer was an "insulting value judgement" but that it did not amount to abusive criticism and was covered by the right to freedom of speech.
Tuesday's verdict confirmed a preliminary ruling handed down by the court in early February.
"It was a form of criticism, which must be possible, when a scandal reaches such dimensions," Zwanziger, who was not present in the courtroom, told the SID news agency shortly after presiding Judge Joachim Matz handed down the ruling.
"The country is half the size of (the German state of) Hesse, it is unbelieveably hot… human rights are being trampled upon. Holding a World Cup there is a joke. I am disappointed that all of the executives, including those at the DFB have accepted this as God-given," added Zwanziger, who served as DFB president from 2006 to 2012.
The Qatar Football Association (QFA) had sued Zwanziger for slander for describing the Gulf nation as a "cancerous growth on world football" in an interview with public broadcaster HR in June 2015, as well as other public statements. The QFA, which had sought 100,000 euros ($108,000) in damages in the case, has a month to decide whether to appeal the verdict.
Human rights concerns
Human rights organizations have criticized Qatar for the conditions faced by migrants working on the construction of facilities being built to host the 2022 World Cup. A report released by Human Rights Watch earlier this year found that labor reforms introduced in 2015 had "failed to provide meaningful protection to low-paid migrant workers and left them acutely vulnerable to trafficking and forced labor."
Swiss prosecutor have launched investigations into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
pfd/apc (SID, dpa)