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Disgraced former Haitian football president announces he’s back


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The former president of Haiti’s soccer federation, whose lifetime ban from the sport over allegations of sexual abuse was overturned last month, announced on Wednesday that he was getting his job back.

Yves Jean-Bart’s provocative announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which has already appointed an emergency management committee to run the Haitian Football Association until November.

Jean-Bart’s virtual press conference came a week after Haiti’s women’s soccer team beat Chile 2-1 in a historic match and qualified for the first time in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, sparking a jubilant celebration across the country.

Jean-Bart has denied allegations by the FIFA Ethics Committee, which issued a lifetime ban after founding him guilty in 2020 of sexually abusing female players from the age of 14, keeping mistresses and attacking girls from poor neighborhoods.

The Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the ban two weeks ago, ruling that there were inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the statements of the alleged victims. The court also said information provided by groups such as Human Rights Watch and global actors’ union FIFPRO was not “sufficiently probative”.

Jean-Bart, who was joined by several lawyers on the video conference, also said he would take legal action for alleged defamation against a freelance journalist who first reported the charges against him in British newspaper The Guardian.

“He’s going on the offensive. Let it be known, ”said his lawyer Stanley Gaston.

Gaston added that Jean-Bart is battling cancer and it is unclear when he will return to Haiti, noting that all business will be conducted virtually.

Another lawyer, Claude Ramoni, pointed out that Jean-Bart was no longer suspended and that he had the right to continue serving as president of the Haitian football federation.

“He was elected president for four years, and his term is not over,” Ramoni said, adding that FIFA should recognize him as such. “They have to accept it.”

FIFA officials did not immediately return a message for comment. It is unclear whether FIFA should let Jean-Bart take over as head of the Haitian federation.

The emergency panel appointed by FIFA to lead Haiti’s football association is led by a veteran football official from Cuba, and is set to represent Haiti on March 16 in Rwanda when FIFA’s 211 member federations have their meeting. annual.

FIFA could deny Jean-Bart accreditation for such events it organizes, including the Women’s World Cup which begins in July. The month-long tournament is co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, which generally require Haitian citizens to apply for a visa to enter. It was also unclear whether FIFA planned to appeal the court’s decision to uphold Jean-Bart’s appeal.

Human Rights Watch said the Court of Arbitration for Sport “wrongly overturned” Jean-Bart’s lifetime ban and called on FIFA to appeal the decision.

“In Haiti, FIFA and the sport of football gave Yves Jean-Bart enormous power, including to abuse child athletes, and cover up his abuse with threats to kill survivors and family members,” said said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at HRW, in a statement. statement.

“During its hearing, (the court) failed to provide basic witness protection, despite knowing that many athletes and federation staff had received death threats,” the statement said.

Jean-Bart, who has led the Haitian football federation since 2000, also announced on Wednesday that he would create new protections to prevent sexual abuse, including creating an ethics commission.

“I must thank God for the support and strength to fight all allegations over the past 20 years from my enemies in Haiti and abroad,” he said. “They keep trying to beat me any way they can.”

___ Graham Dunbar, Associated Press reporter in Geneva, contributed. Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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