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A subsidiary of French construction company Vinci faced preliminary charges of forced labor and other alleged rights abuses on Wednesday for migrant workers who worked on infrastructure in Qatar to host the World Cup.

The company denies the accusations and will appeal the decision issued against it, and said that the judges rushed to take the decision before the opening of the tournament on November 20.

But the rights group behind the initial legal complaint against Vinci seven years ago hailed Wednesday’s move as a major advance, after protracted efforts to hold the company accountable for the alleged abuse.

In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatar faced scrutiny of its labor laws and treatment of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, mostly from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other countries in South Asia.

Initial charges were brought against Vinci’s subsidiary Vinci Construction Grand Projects for holding multiple people in slavery through forced labor; subjecting workers to conditions and housing incompatible with human dignity; and access to services from vulnerable or dependent people, according to a judicial official and French human rights NGO Sherpa.

Sherpas filed the original complaint in 2015, along with several former workers.

Sherpas said they collected testimonies about working conditions at some construction sites operated by the Vinci subsidiary, which included working in temperatures over 45 degrees Celsius with insufficient water, withheld passports, and inadequate bathrooms on accommodations.

Sandra Kosar, president of Sherpa, told The Associated Press the accusations are “a strong signal to those economic players who are profiting from modern slavery…we hope it gets things moving.”

Vinci said earlier this week that investigative judges have summoned her representatives to face potential charges in the case.

In response to the accusations on Wednesday, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campenche, a lawyer for Vinci’s subsidiary, said on France-Info radio that the company would seek to overturn the decision.

He denounced what he called “the inadequacy of the time frame given to the lawyers to develop useful responses, and the hasty selection of the (summon) date, just a few days before the opening of the FIFA World Cup.”

Vinci said on Monday that none of the projects awarded to its Qatari unit QDVC had any connection to the World Cup, and that it was committed to improving “the living and working conditions of all workers on construction sites, around the world”.

The construction group worked on some of the infrastructure works that will be used during the World Cup, including the Doha Metro connecting the airport with the historic city center, and the Lusail City Light Rail.

The judicial official said the initial charges related to actions carried out in connection with the World Cup. The official was not authorized to be named to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Initial charges under French law mean that there is reason to suspect a crime, but allow judges more time to investigate before deciding to refer the case to trial.

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