Bundesliga club cuts player over ties to organization linked to Salafism

Wednesday January 25th, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Bundesliga club Darmstadt parted ways with Tunisian player Anis Ben-Hatira on Wednesday following criticism of the midfielder's ties to an organization with alleged links to the radical Islamic Salafist scene.

Darmstadt president Ruediger Fritsch said the club "feels Ben-Hatira's private humanitarian assistance for the organization, the one he is serving, is wrong."

Ben-Hatira had been criticized for his work for Ansaar International–described by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as "firmly interwoven in the German Salafist scene."

Before Darmstadt's draw with Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday, fans unfurled a banner calling on Ben-Hatira to distance himself from Ansaar, leading the Berlin-born player to respond on Facebook, "Are you not ashamed of such actions? Do you really think I'll let myself be intimidated by that?"

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Politicians have also spoken against his work for the organization.

"You cannot let a professional footballer like Ben-Hatira carry on when he's in the vicinity of extremist organizations that are being observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. You have to draw a clear line here," said Peter Beuth, interior minister of the state of Hessen that includes Darmstadt, on Tuesday.

Fritsch did not refer to Ansaar by name in what he called a "very complex and sensitive issue," but he wished Ben-Hatira, "who has always behaved impeccably and as an example at our club, all the best for his sporting future."

Ben-Hatira joined Darmstadt from Bundesliga rival Eintracht Frankfurt last summer. He scored one goal in 11 league games for the side. The 28-year-old previously played for Hertha Berlin, Hamburger SV, MSV Duisburg and Tennis Borussia Berlin. He has made 11 appearances for Tunisia.

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