Australian ex-Socceroo Craig Foster in tears after meeting with Bahraini refugee footballer jailed in Thailand

Australian ex-Socceroo Craig Foster in tears after meeting with Bahraini refugee footballer jailed in Thailand
Former Australian footballer Craig Foster has said that a Bahraini refugee jailed in Thailand while facing possible extradition is 'losing hope'.
2 min read
22 January, 2019
Craig Foster visited Hakeem al-Araibi at a Bangkok jail on Tuesday [AFP]

A retired Australian football star struggled to hold back tears describing his visit to a Thai prison where a Bahraini footballer has been detained while awaiting possible extradition to home country.

Hakeem al-Araibi, a former Bahraini national team player, was jailed in Thailand in November on an Interpol notice after visiting the southeast Asian country for a holiday.

Al-Araibi alleges that he was tortured in the Gulf State for his anti-government views.

"Hakeem is losing hope," Craig Foster, former Australia midfielder, said in an emotional interview with SBS News.

"So Hakeem is worried because the case has been ongoing for so long now...he is worried as he said: Bahrain is winning."

Al-Araibi, a 25-year-old former member of Bahrain's national team, was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 after fleeing his homeland, where he said he was persecuted and tortured.

He was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a police station -  a charge he denies.

Al-Araibi, who is now with Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club, has been publicly critical of the Bahrain royal family's alleged involvement in sports scandals, which puts him at risk of punishment by the Bahraini government.

The former Socceroo criticised FIFA, football's world governing body, and the Asian Football Confederation for not speaking out on behalf of the jailed player.

He said al-Araibi would like to ask the president of FIFA, "Where are you? Where is FIFA? Where are my human rights?"

Foster also said al-Araibi told him he had played football with other inmates inside the prison, but had become injured in the process.

Hakeem al-Araibi [C] was arrested
in Bangkok in November [AFP]

Thailand has faced increasing pressure in recent weeks over its handling of refugees following the case of 18-year-old Saudi runaway Rahaf al-Qunun, who arrived in Bangkok and staved off deportation by barricading herself in a hotel at the airport.

Amid international pressure heightened by social media attention, al-Qunun was handed over to the UN's refugee agency within days and resettled to Canada within a week.

Qunun said she suffered abuse in the ultra-conservative kingdom and refused to see family members who came to Thailand after her flight.

After al-Qunun's resettlement in Canada, Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn pledged "no one sent back to the country if they don't want to go back".

The claim was met with scepticism given al-Araibi's continued detention.