By GRAHAM DUNBAR, Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) — Former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam's appeal against a life ban from soccer for allegedly bribing voters during his election challenge to Sepp Blatter opens Wednesday at sport's highest court.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has scheduled two full days to examine evidence surrounding Bin Hammam's campaign trip to Trinidad last May.
FIFA's judicial bodies expelled the Asian Football Confederation president from world soccer, using whistleblower testimony from Caribbean officials who said they were offered envelopes stuffed with $40,000 in $100 bills.
Bin Hammam is not expected to attend the court sessions in Lausanne, Switzerland, despite having praised CAS for its integrity after describing FIFA's legal process as a "kangaroo court."
"My next step is to go to CAS where from now on, I will be equal to my rival," Bin Hammam said last September in his most recent public comment on the case.
He has denied wrongdoing and claimed Blatter helped orchestrate a bribery scandal to ensure an election victory last June.
The CAS panel of three arbitrators aims to give a fast-track verdict this month.
Their decision could depend on how much of the available evidence is declared admissible in court.
Potential evidence includes video leaked to international media last year of former FIFA vice president Jack Warner addressing his Caribbean Football Union colleagues the day after the alleged bribes were distributed. Warner resigned from world soccer to end a FIFA investigation into allegations he was complicit with Bin Hammam.
However, separate CAS panels established legal precedents in recent weeks as three FIFA officials lost their appeals against bans for corruption during bidding contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
In the case of Bin Hammam's former FIFA executive committee colleague Amos Adamu, CAS rejected an argument that evidence provided by British newspaper The Sunday Times was illegally obtained under Swiss law.
The panel dismissed that line of defense as "mere circumstance," saying "there has been no ordinary judge declaring that the evidence was unlawfully obtained and prohibiting its use."
Still, Bin Hammam's legal team has described FIFA's case as "bogus and founded on lies."
The Qatari official's American lawyer, Eugene Gulland, told The Associated Press he was not authorized to comment ahead of the hearing, and his office in Doha also declined comment.
FIFA said its policy was not to comment about ongoing judicial cases.
FIFA is scheduled to be represented in court by Swiss lawyer Antonio Rigozzi, CAS said.
Rigozzi helped defend Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador at CAS last November, when the former Tour de France winner lost his 2010 title over a positive drugs test. He also helped represent Wayne Rooney in a UEFA appeals case in December, as the England forward earned a reduced ban clearing him to play in the last game of the European Championship group stage.
The CAS panel this week will be chaired by Spanish lawyer Jose Maria Alonso, flanked by an English arbitrator nominated by each party to the case.
Bin Hammam's team selected Philippe Sands, and FIFA opted for Swiss-born Romano Subiotto.
If Bin Hammam loses, he can pursue a right of appeal at Switzerland's supreme court.
That process would take several months to complete. He has sought a quick ruling to protect his position with the Asian soccer body, which he has led since 2002.
The AFC is legally obliged to seek a new president if Bin Hammam's status is not resolved by May 29 — one year after FIFA provisionally suspended him.
Bin Hammam has previously asked CAS to prevent the AFC appointing Chinese official Zhang Jilong as interim president, and delegate to FIFA's ruling committee, while he fights to clear his name.
He did not attend in Lausanne when that appeal was heard in January. A verdict is expected soon in that case.
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