Blatter reasserts innocence ahead of FIFA ethics hearing

ZURICH: Suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter again proclaimed his innocence in a corruption scandal gripping the world football body as he prepares to testify this week before the group's ethics panel.

"I will fight on for my rights and present my view of things to the chamber with great conviction and a firm belief in justice," he told the Swiss newspaper Blick ahead of Thursday's hearing. "I am suspended but not isolated and not at all mute."

FIFA ethics investigators called in November for sanctions against Blatter and European (UEFA) football chief Michel Platini, both of whom were suspended from their posts for 90 days on Oct. 8 pending a full investigation.

FIFA's ethics panel is set to rule on the matter next week.

US prosecutors have charged 41 people and entities in an inquiry into football corruption. Football bosses from throughout the Americas are among the defendants in a case that prosecutors say involves $200 million (£132 million) in bribes and kickbacks tied to the marketing of major tournaments and matches.

Blatter is also the subject of a criminal investigation in his native Switzerland.

The avalanche of corruption allegations prompted Blatter to say in June he would resign, only days after being re-elected to a fifth term. Blatter has not been charged with a crime.

His adviser, Klaus Stoehlker, confirmed Blick's report that Blatter would write his traditional end-of-year letter to FIFA members, this time on his own stationery.

"It is the annual letter the president has written for 17 years to the now 209 members of FIFA," Stoehlker said. "This was always a letter with strategic thoughts of the president."