Algerian judoka banned for 10 years for refusing match with Israeli

Fathi Noreen

The International Judo Federation (IJF) has banned the Algerian judoka Fathi Noreen and his coach for 10 years after they withdrew from a match against an Israeli at the Tokyo Olympics.

The IJF said the pair used the Olympic Games as a platform for “protest and promotion of political and religious propaganda” after Noreen, a 73kg athlete, and his coach Amar Benikhlef, made public statements that they would be unwilling to face an Israeli during the  competition in July.

Noreen, 30, later told 5Pillars that he would withdraw from the Olympics 1,000 times again so long as the world realises the nature of the Israeli occupier.

The IJF statement said: “On 6th August 2021 the IJF Executive Committee decided to initiate a disciplinary procedure against Mr Fathi Noreen and Mr Amar Benikhlef because their behaviour falls within Article 50 of the Olympic Charter, prohibiting any ‘kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is (not) permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas’ and to submit the case to the IJF Disciplinary Commission in the First Instance.

“For the IJF Disciplinary Commission, it is evident that the two Algerian judoka, with malicious intent, have used the Olympic Games as a platform for protest and promotion of political and religious propaganda, which is a clear and serious breach of the IJF Statutes, the IJF Code of Ethics and the Olympic Charter. Therefore, no other penalty than a severe suspension can be imposed in this case.

“On these grounds the IJF Disciplinary Commission pronounces against Mr Fathi Noreen and Mr Amar Benikhlef 10 years suspension each from all events and activities organised or authorised by the International Judo Federation and its unions, commencing 23rd July 2021, through to 23rd July 2031.”

Noreen told Algerian media that he was “shocked by the punishment,” and that he was not expecting such cruel penalty. “We will appeal the sentence imposed on us, and I ask the authorities to stand by me,” he said.

He added: “My withdrawal was in support of Palestine. My position is consistent. I reject normalisation in all its forms, even if it costs me that absence from the Olympic Games, God will compensate us.”

The decision will be subject to appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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