Hakeem Al-Araibi to remain in Thai prison
- Author: Joey Payne Feb 06, 2019,
Feb 06, 2019, 8:27
A preliminary hearing of witnesses and evidence was set for 22 April, he said.
Al-Araibi's wife, who is back in Australia, recently spoke out against her husband's situation and declared he will be killed should he be sent back to Bahrain. Such notices are not supposed to be given to refugees.
Bahrain seeks his extradition over vandalism charges dating back to 2012.
The footballer, a former member of Bahrain's national team, has denied the accusation, saying he was playing a televised match at the time.
Hakeem al-Araibi, a Bahraini refugee and Australian resident, fears torture and even death if he is returned to his homeland.
His case has also been raised by Labour MP Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan, who confirmed via a tweet that she had asked Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to act in aiding the footballer "escape torture". "Why won't Thailand just let me go home?" The Thai courts should immediately release al-Araibi so he can return to Australia, given it is now widely recognized that the Interpol notice was approved on illegal grounds. "He is a human rights defender and therefore under worldwide law he should not be subject to these proceedings", Francis Awaritefe, vice president of FIFPro, the global union for professional football players, said at the court.
Al-Araibi had been living in Melbourne, Australia, and played for a semi-professional team there.
Foster said he has called on Federation Internationale de Football Association to discuss the possibility of issuing sporting sanctions against Thailand that could bar global matches from taking place within the country.
Bahrain also disputes Australia's finding that al-Araibi is a refugee, saying Australia had granted this status based on inaccurate information.
Al-Araibi himself has spoken of his fear of being deported to Bahrain, telling The Guardian, "in Bahrain there are no human rights and no safety for people like me", further asserting that the extradition notice was connected to comments he made about Bahrain's human rights record, saying "This is nothing to do with my conviction, Bahrain wants me back to punish me, because I talked to the media about bad human rights".
Bahrain wants him sent back to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for an arson attack that damaged a police station.
Amnesty International has said al-Araibi will be imprisoned and tortured if Thailand returns him to Bahrain, launching a petition campaign that has garnered over 50,000 signatures. Bahrain has dubiously convicted thousands in response to the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, and given al-Araibi's credible alibi, his conviction seems no different.
Al-Araibi claims his imprisonment is Shaikh Salman taking revenge after he openly criticised the FIFA vice-president, who unsuccessfully ran for the top job at world football's governing body in 2015. "It is a commitment enshrined in our human rights policy", he said.