Monday, 18 November, 2019


Australia PM ramps up pressure on Thailand to free refugee footballer

Hakeem Al Araibi Drogba Chelsea legend Drogba throws his support behind #SaveHakeem
Bennie Garza | 08 February, 2019, 09:40

The ministry said it had not been aware of al-Araibi's case and would not have become involved had it not received the red notice alert and Bahrain's subsequent arrest and extradition request.

In 2014, a court in Bahrain sentenced Araibi to 10 years in prison on multiple charges of vandalizing a police station.

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.

Al-Araibi has lived in Australia for about five years with refugee status and Australian residency after fleeing what he described as torture in his native nation.

"He is at grave risk of unjust imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment if he is returned to Bahrain".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has increased pressure on Thailand to release al-Araibi.

A coalition of Thai human rights and civil liberties groups, academics and leading legal figures have called on the Thai government to release refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

The Pascoe Vale FC player was travelling to Thailand for a belated honeymoon when he was detained at Bangkok airport by authorities acting on an Interpol arrest warrant which has been declared invalid.

"It took several days after the arrival of Mr Hakeem before the Australian authorities informed us that the red notice had been cancelled", the ministry said in a statement.

"Please speak to Thailand, don't send me to Bahrain".

Australia has called for Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to personally intervene and free the semi-professional footballer.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Thai attorney-general has confirmed that the Extradition Act allows for such discretion.

"So between now and then, Hakeem will have to be in custody for at least until August", Trumph Jalichandra told a news conference, adding that he could only be released sooner if Bahrain withdrew its request.

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

He was shackled on Monday when he appeared in court in Thailand where the formal hearings in his extradition trial were set down to start on April 22.

Thailand's handling of the case has also been criticised by Football Federation Australia who has cancelled a scheduled training session in Thailand for the national under-23 team.

Five years ago when Hakeem arrived in Australia, Hill interviewed the Bahrainian footballer, who at the time was very critical of Sheikh Salman, the current President of the Asian Football Confederation and member of the House of Khalifa, the Royal Family of Bahrain. Bahrain fails to mention the court ignored evidence that only minutes before the time of the alleged crime, Al-Araibi was playing in a televised football match broadcast on national television.

"The Thai government should see that Bahrain's sole motive is to further punish Hakeem for the peaceful political opinions he expressed", Amnesty International Thailand campaigner Katherine Gerson said in a statement.

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