Monday, 21 October, 2019

Australia U23 team scrap Thailand visit over Hakeem Al-Araibi detention

Hakeem al-Araibi a Bahraini refugee and Australian resident is escorted to a courtroom in Bangkok Hakeem al-Araibi a Bahraini refugee and Australian resident is escorted to a courtroom in Bangkok Credit afp
Patty Aguilar | 08 February, 2019, 02:54

Having played semi-professional football for Pascoe Vale in Australia, where he obtained refugee status in 2017, Al-Araibi has been training inside detention to ensure he's ready to play upon his release.

Thailand's foreign ministry on Wednesday described the case as "involving two countries competing for Mr Hakeem's custody".

Bahraini authorities claimed a group of protesters, including Mr al-Araibi and his brother, Emad, attacked a police station with petrol bombs during the Arab Spring uprising.

"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.

The Thai attorney general has since said Al-Araibi's fate will be decided in the courts and not by the Thai government.

She said she requested his release on bail but it was denied because the court deemed him a flight risk.

Led by Australia, support for Al-Araibi has accumulated in cyberspace and on social network platforms, most of the posts calling for Thailand to immediately release him so that he could return to his wife and Australia.

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.

It said the footballer would have the chance to appeal in its own domestic courts.

A deputy spokesman for the office said the case was not political.

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Arnold's side was to play friendlies against China's under-22 team on March 14 and an unnamed opponent three days later before travelling to Cambodia for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying tournament. I'm respectfully reminding the Thai prime minister that Australians feel very strongly about this.

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

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) which is also a signatory, separately said the Thai attorney-general should use his discretion to withdraw the case to "reduce pressure from the global community and make our stand to protect refugees from persecution".

"Given. that he is a permanent resident of our country, on the pathway to citizenship, we have encouraged the Bahraini government not to proceed with the extradition application, and we have encouraged the Thai government to exercise the discretion that they have available to them", she told the ABC.

Thailand's foreign ministry said this week it "does not gain anything" from holding Araibi but it had legal obligations and commitments to the worldwide community.

It urged Australia and Bahrain to find a "mutually agreeable solution".

Araibi was convicted of vandalizing a police station during 2011 anti-government protests in Bahrain and sentenced in absentia after he fled. 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 Gulf state issued a statement this week defending its decision to pursue Araibi after he fled while awaiting trial.

Araibi, 25, says he faces torture if returned to Bahrain. "I have done nothing wrong in Bahrain but if I go back I will be tortured again and I will be sentenced to 12 years in jail".

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