Bahraini refugee footballer could be jailed in Thailand until August

Craig Foster

An Olyroos training camp and game in Thailand has been scrapped as Football Federation Australia takes a stand against the nation's ongoing detention of refugee soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi.

U23's head coach Graham Arnold said: "Last year, the national team department had put some preliminary plans in place to play against China in Bangkok as part of our important preparation for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers to be held in Cambodia in March".

The former captain of Australia has said that Bahrain and Thailand should be barred from hosting worldwide sport until Hakeem al-Araibi, the refugee footballer, is released from prison.

Thailand's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Tuesday that al-Araibi was detained on arrival because Australian authorities had forwarded them an Interpol Red Notice that Bahrain was seeking his arrest.

A former player for Bahrain's national football team, al-Araibi has spoken out about a senior Bahraini official's alleged torture of footballers who had participated in demonstrations.

Other sports governing bodies have called for Al-Araibi to be sent back to Australia, including FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation and the International Olympic Committee.

In a statement released today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Al-Araibi was detained in Bangkok at the request of Australia and dismissed claims it was prejudiced against Al-Araibi.

Al-Araibi appeared shackled and handcuffed at a Criminal Court hearing in Bangkok on Monday (February 4).

MFA deputy permanent-secretary Thani Thongpakdi said that Thailand and Bahrain have no extradition treaty between the two countries, which led to the use of Extradition Act, 2008, in Mr Araibi's case.

Al-Araibi has been openly critical of the Bahraini government and its record on human rights.

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

The red notice was cancelled within days, but Thailand said because Bahrain had also made a formal extradition request he could not be released.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the case would be tried in court in compliance with Thai judicial procedures and the government is not in a position to interfere.

Former Australia and Crystal Palace defender Craig Foster and the Australian and worldwide players' unions have been leading a campaign for the release of Al-Araibi.

"I am respectfully reminding the Thai PM that Australians feel very strongly about this".

It also said that under the UN Convention Against Torture, to which Thailand is a state party, countries are urged not to deport people to territories where they fear "persecution, torture, cruel treatment or a life-threatening situation".

"After a thorough process, he was assessed by the Australian government to be a refugee". "He is at grave risk of unjust imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment if he is returned to Bahrain".

"So between now and then, Hakeem will have to be in custody for at least until August", Trumph Jalichandra said.

Thai officials have indicated that there could be action taken by the executive branch of government, but only after the extradition case has gone through the courts.

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