bellinzona (Associated Press) — Joseph Blatter slowly leaned into the microphone in his first-row swivel chair and spoke in a low, crackling voice.
Due to health problems, at the end of the first day of the trial against him and against Michel Platini, the former FIFA President requested that his questioning be postponed. “I have a complaint that came back, then I can’t breathe properly either,” Blatter said in a whisper before his planned interrogation. “I don’t feel able to answer.”
Operation schedule under pressure early
With the support of his daughter Corinne, the 86-year-old made his way through more than a dozen television cameras in the midday sun in front of the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland. After the first four hours of the eagerly awaited trial, he said, he was very tired. According to attorney Lorenz Ernie, his client has chest pains and breathing difficulties. That put pressure on the schedule early on, which Chief Justice Josephine Conto Albrizio said was “tailored” to Blatter’s health.
Former FIFA and UEFA president Platini will not testify until Thursday, the second of eleven days of negotiations, over the allegations of fraud and other crimes. “We look forward to the verdict,” Platini’s lawyer, Dominic Nelen, said as he left the courtroom. Finally there is a court also looking into this story. The witnesses who are coming now are important to us. On the other hand, positive, Mr. Platini is also looking forward to these witnesses.”
Blatter and Platini accused of deceiving the International Federation over Platini’s pending claim. According to the indictment, Blatter was said to have illegally confirmed the payment by FIFA of 2 million francs (currently about 1.92 million euros) in addition to Platini’s social security contributions.
What is the role of FIFA President Infantino?
The question of how the investigators got into the process has not been resolved. Without Blatter’s statement, the start of the trial was marked by an exchange of verbal blows between Platini’s defense and FIFA as special prosecutor – and the question of the role of current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Platini’s lawyer, Nelen, said the court would not be able to avoid the question of who had an interest in these criminal proceedings. He asked the court to consider a disciplinary order against former federal prosecutor Michael Lauber. He also handles secret meetings with Infantino. The former UEFA general secretary was promoted to the new FIFA president in 2016 after the fall of Blatter and Platini, who already seemed confident of his successor as FIFA president.
On the other hand, Catherine Hall-Shirazi, a FIFA representative, accused Platini’s side of creating a “smoke curtain” and setting up a “conspiracy theory”. She stressed that “there is no relationship between the procedures.”
Blatter: ‘I have nothing to blame’
The court rejected several defense requests, including excluding FIFA from the special prosecutor. As well as the desire of the representative of FIFA to allow him to plead in French.
Platini (66) watched the start of the German trial between his three representatives with headphones and a French translation on his ears from the second row, diagonally behind Blatter. Before his health issues, the 86-year-old showed self-confidence, joking and laughing with Platini.
“With the beautiful sun, I’m in a good mood. I’m confident I have nothing to blame myself for,” Blatter said on Wednesday morning when he arrived at the court. “It takes two weeks, so I have to be in a good mood the first day.” The verdict is expected to be announced on July 8.