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

Footballer Hakeem al Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014 and was later granted asylum in Australia, faces extradition to his homeland Bahrain, where he thinks he will face torture and even death.

Governing body Football Federation Australia (FFA) on Wednesday cancelled the under-23 men's team's plans to hold a training camp and a friendly game in Thailand ahead of the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers in March.

A refugee Bahraini footballer who was arrested in Thailand while on vacation from his new home in Australia could remain in jail until August while a court decides on an extradition request from Bahrain, a Thai official said on Wednesday.

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.

The Australian government, world football governing body Fifa and the worldwide players' union FIFPro have all advocated the release of the player.

"The Bahraini government knew that he would be arriving in Thailand so they coordinated with Thailand's permanent secretary of foreign affairs to detain him, pending documents sent from Bahrain", Surachet told BBC Thai.

Al-Araibi is to stay in custody until an April 22 trial to determine whether Thai authorities are to send him to Bahrain or release him so he can return to Australia.

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

"Thailand hopes that Australia and Bahrain will have the goodwill to earnestly work together towards finding a win-win solution to this issue". "Bahrain won't defend me".

The 25-year-old was convicted in absentia on charges of vandalizing a police station in Bahrain, but says he was out of the country playing in a match at the time of the alleged offence.

He was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on honeymoon and subsequently was held pending the completion of the extradition request by Bahrain.

Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has been leading the fight to have al-Araibi freed and says Bahrain and Thailand should be threatened with immediate expulsion from world sport over the issue.

It said al-Araibi had been granted bail to travel for a football tournament and had violated the terms while taking "special consideration granted to him as a sportsman".

Marise Payne, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, said she was "deeply concerned by his ongoing detention", promising to advocate at the "highest levels" for his release.

"I would be very disappointed if as a result of how this was handled that that relationship between the Thai and Australian people were affected", he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday. "The actions of the Bahraini Government have put Thailand in a very hard position".

"After a thorough process, he was assessed by the Australian government to be a refugee".

"So between now and then, Mr Araibi will have to be in custody at least until August", Mr Trumph said. He has claimed that he will be tortured and imprisoned should he be handed over to Bahrain by the Thai authorities.

"Thailand's office of the Attorney-General has publicly confirmed that Thailand's Extradition Act allows for executive discretion in such cases".

  • Tracy Klein