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August 06, 2020

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A six-month prison sentence handed to Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has been overturned by the Court of Appeal in his native Kuwait, according to reports in the Gulf country.

Sheikh Ahmad, also the President of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was handed the sentence and fined 1,000 dinar (£2,160/$3,300/€3,000) in December for allegedly “insulting the judiciary”.

He always denied wrongdoing, however, and had pledged to appeal, while he never spent any time behind bars.

The situation arose after public allegations he made against two Government members three years ago, former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and former speaker Jassem Mohammad Abdul-Mohsem Al-Karafi.

He alleged that the pair had laundered money, misused public funds and plotted to topple the Government and said his evidence was based on computerised documents and film records.

Sheikh Ahmad secured a Swiss Court ruling to prove that the voices of the two officials heard in his recordings were genuine, but the allegations were dismissed by a court in Kuwait as "fabrications".

He was forced to apologise to the ruling Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, but had always denied any wrongdoing and said that the decision to hand him a jail sentence was a “personal attack”.

After the Court of Appeal's decision, the case can now be referred to Kuwait's Supreme Court for a final verdict.

Today's announcement is the latest development in a saga which began when Kuwait were suspended by the IOC in October, following the introduction of a new law in the country which was claimed to amount to Government interference in sporting bodies.

A total of 17 other International Federations have also suspended Kuwait, and it was announced last week that the country's Government have named Sheikh Ahmad in a $1.3 billion (£901 million/€1.2 billion) lawsuit which seeks compensation for the country facing the prospect of missing the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Sheikh Ahmad's brother, Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad, who is the President of the Kuwait Olympic Committee (KOC), has also been named in the lawsuit alongside every other member of the KOC.

The Government allege the KOC didn't take enough action when the IOC suspended them and that the decision should have been challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

They are seeking 5,001 dinar (£11,400/$16,500/€15,200) from each Sheikh plus a further 400 million dinar (£901 million/£1.3 billion/€1.2 billion) compensation.

The row is seen by some to be the outcome of a personal feud between Sheikh Ahmad and Kuwait's Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Homud Al-Sabah.

Sheikh Salman stood unsuccessfully in 2014 to replace Mexico's Olegario Vázquez Raña as President of the International Shooting Sport Federation, in an election where his defeat followed insidethegames revelations that he had been using his Government position to try to influence voters.

He blamed allies of Sheikh Ahmad for his defeat, and was then responsible for the new law coming into force in the country.

The ISSF have since announced that they are investigating Sheikh Salman, who stepped down as Asian Shooting Confederation President after his loss to Raña, for ethics breaches.

Kuwait's athletes could still compete at the Rio Olympics under the Olympic flag should their suspension not be lifted.

However, IOC Athletes' Commission Chair Claudia Bokel claimed that the country had made attempts to stop this from happening.

The row has an extra complexity as the OCA headquarters are based in Kuwait City - although the organisation's presence in the country is now in doubt.

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