Hakeem al-Araibi: Thai government 'shirking responsibility' by detaining footballer

Hugh Fox
February 8, 2019

One of the protesters in Sydney last week was Fox Sports commentator Simon Hill, who was wearing Al-Araibi's number five shirt in solidarity.

The Foreign Ministry's statement seems to contradict an earlier claim by Thai Immigration chief Police Lieutenant General Surachet Hakparn that Bahrain knew of al-Araibi's travel plans prior to his arrival.

Al-Araibi, 25, who is wanted by Bahrain over the firebombing of a police station in 2012, was detained at Bangkok airport on November 27 when he arrived from Melbourne for his honeymoon.

The signatories included the Human Rights Lawyers Association, the Union for Civil Liberty, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, labour unions and law and human rights lecturers.

Asking Australia and Bahrain to resolve the issue between themselves, the military-led Thai government refused a request from Canberra to free the refugee footballer.

Hakeem al-Araibi denied the allegations and said he was tortured by his captors during his detention.

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Global condemnation of al-Araibi's treatment has focused on Thailand's role, particularly since it was confirmed the government has the power to release him.

Australia coach Graham Arnold said his country's "national teams are united in their support for Hakeem al-Araibi and we call on the community to continue to campaign for his release".

Travelling on an Australian travel document, al-Araibi was detained with his wife upon arrival in Bangkok on 27 November previous year. "By that time, legal proceedings in Thailand regarding Mr. Hakeem had already started and could not be reversed".

"Please, don't send me to Bahrain", Araibi told the court, which extended his detention by another two months. He says he only wants to return to Australia, where he has lived since 2014 and plays for a Melbourne football club.

FFA had planned since past year to play a friendly match against China in Bangkok as part of the team's preparations for the AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers, which will be held in Cambodia in March, but alternatives are now being sought.

Araibi was convicted of vandalizing a police station during 2011 anti-government protests in Bahrain and sentenced in absentia after he fled.

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The former Bahrain national team player said he fled his home country due to political repression and fears he is at risk of being tortured if he returns.

Thailand said previously that it was acting on an Interpol Red Notice request from Bahrain.

Australian officials have also been pressing the Bahraini government, Morrison said.

"We ask that everyone refrain from prejudging the court's rulings and prematurely jumping to the conclusion that Thailand will extradite Mr Hakeem back to Bahrain", it said.

Chatchom Akapin, director-general for global affairs at the Office of the Attorney-General, said several foreign defendants had jumped bail and did not show up in court. "What's more, Hakeem was the subject of an extradition request", Surachate said.

He has since spoken publicly about his own torture, saying: "They blindfolded me (...and) beat my legs really hard, saying, "You will not play soccer again".

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