Australia government urges Thailand to free refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi

Larry Hoffman
February 9, 2019

She added: "Mr.al-Araibi is a refugee and a permanent resident of Australia and the government remains deeply concerned by his ongoing detention in Thailand".

The situation has seen the Football Federation of Australia cancel an upcoming U23 men's team trip to Thailand, where they had been due to play a warmup match against China.

The Thai government said it is unable to release Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi from jail because an extradition request it received from Bahrain has "to run its judicial course".

"Australia'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", said a statement by team coach Graham Arnold.

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.

Worldwide 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.

On Monday, Mr Araibi told the Criminal Court he refuses to be voluntarily extradited to Bahrain, which has asked for his return to serve a prison sentence for a crime he denies committing.

Hakeem al-Araibi has gained massive sympathy worldwide, particularly in Australia - while Thailand feels the hate.

A Bangkok court extended Araibi's detention by another two months on Monday, asking him to present his case in April when the judges reconvene.

Araibi, 25, says he faces torture if returned to Bahrain.

He was arrested by Thai authorities on November 27 at Bahrain's request.

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

Former Australian football captain Craig Foster along with a group who has been campaigning for Araibi's release were present at the court to lend support to the embattled player. He says he only wants to return to Australia, where he has lived since 2014 and plays for a Melbourne football club.

"I've written two letters now to the Thai prime minister and our consular officials and others have been using every opportunity they have to press the case to bring Hakeem home", he said at a Wednesday news conference in Melbourne. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also spoken out strongly on behalf of Al-Araibi's freedom. "This was also confirmed by the prosecutor in the context of yesterday's hearing", Payne said in a statement.

AlAraibi was allegedly tortured by Bahraini authorities for his brother's political actions and sentenced to a decade in jail for the alleged vandalism. I reiterate once again that the Government of Australia would like Hakeem al-Araibi to be returned to Australia as soon as possible. Bahrain said he had the right to appeal as others involved in the case have done.

"We are in the process of rearranging our pre-tournament camp in another Asian nation".

"[The] Office of Attorney General has reviewed the fact, [and] it is completely in line with Thai law".

"From this point on, the case has entered into the Thai judiciary system", said Trumph Jalichandra, deputy spokesman for the attorney general's office.

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