Court rejects Qatar case against Germany's ex-football president Zwanziger

Court rejects Qatar case against Germany's ex-football president Zwanziger
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Published April 19th, 2016 - 14:44 GMT via

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Theo Zwanziger
Theo Zwanziger

A court in Germany on Tuesday rejected a claim for slander by the Qatar Football Association (QFA) against former German football federation president Theo Zwanziger.

The QFA sued Zwanziger, also a former member of world governing body FIFA's executive committee, who referred to the 2022 World Cup hosts as a "cancerous growth on world football."

Zwanziger, a long-standing critic of the Qatar World Cup, made the remarks in an interview last June with a German radio station.

The QFA had sued Zwanziger, claiming 100,000 euros (108,000 dollars) in damages in the case heard at Dusseldorf regional court, after the former official had refused to sign a cease-and-desist declaration.

The court ruled that although Zwanziger's remarks in the Hessischer Rundfunk interview were derogatory he was within his rights to express his views under freedom of expression laws.

The remarks were predominantly a criticism of the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup rather than a defamation of Qatar as a nation, it ruled.

In reaction to the ruling, Zwanziger said he had made "no personal attack" on anyone.

"I was always convinced that the criticism was for the World Cup award to Qatar, even if I expressed it in strong words, which were covered by constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech," he said.

Zwanziger said a country like Qatar "half as big as (the German state of) Hesse, with human rights violations and unbearable heat in the summer cannot in my view be the venue for what is with the Olympic Games the world's largest sporting event."

The awarding of Qatar for 2022, and Russia for the 2018 World Cup, continues to be investigated by Swiss prosecutors.

Zwanziger, who was German federation (DFB) president until 2012, is one of three former DFB officials being investigated by German authorities on suspicion of tax evasion in connection with a payment to FIFA around Germany's hosting of the 2006 World Cup.

© 2016 dpa GmbH

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