Families accuse Qatar of 'kidnapping' French nationals
The wives of four Frenchmen held in Qatar appealed to the French government to help their husbands, who, they claim, are being denied exit visas for fraudulent reasons. Their lawyer claims that the men have been kidnapped.
"They thought that we would become demoralised," declared Johanna Belounis at a press conference in Lille, northern France, on Monday.
Her husband, Franco-Algerian footballer Zahir Belounis, went to play for a Qatari club in 2007 but claims not to have been paid for nearly two years.
When he sued his club for 21 months pay, he was told that he must drop the case in order to obtain an exit visa.
Another man, Jean-Pierre Marongiu, claims that his Qatari business partners demanded that he give them his share of the company they had set up jointly without payment.
He fled to neighbouring Bahrein in a kayak but, according to the men's lawyer, Franck Berton, the French embassy there handed him over to the Bahreini authorities, who, in turn, handed him over to the Qatari coastguard.
The French foreign affairs ministry denies the accusation but says that the embassy tried to dissuade him to "illegally go to Manama", pointing out that an embassy "cannot aid nationals to flee justice".
Berton is also representing another entrepreneur, Nasser Al-Awartany, and football trainer Stéphane Morello and is due to go to to Doha to meet the four men at the beginning of September.
French footballer Abdeslam Ouaddou gave his support to the families.
He had found himself "stuck" in Qatar in similar conditions and has appealed to world football authority, Fifa, to intervene in the case, he said.
Berton, who sasy the men are effectively hostages, intends to open a case in Qatar, pointing out that the men's official sponsors, include members of the gulf state's royal family.
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