#SaveHakeem: Bahrain regime seeks Thai extradition of detained 'dissident footballer' Hakeem al-Araibi
Thailand officially received a request from the Bahraini regime to extradite a detained football player who has refugee status in Australia.
Bahrain's request for the extradition of Hakeem al-Araibi was received on Monday and forwarded to prosecutors for deliberation, foreign ministry spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks said on Tuesday.
The Bahraini national team player says he fled his home country due to political repression. Bahrain wants him returned to serve a prison sentence for a charge he denies.
Araibi was detained upon his arrival in Bangkok in November while on a holiday, and a court ruled in December he could be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain.
The attorney general is expected to decide Araibi's case within a week, said Chatchom Akapin, director general for the attorney general's international affairs department.
Chatchom said Thailand would not extradite Araibi "if the sought extradition is political." He said "if it is, then the request must be denied."
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison personally urged Thailand not to extradite the Australian refugee footballer to Bahrain and release him from detention, according to SBS News.
Morrison said in a reported letter to his Thai counterpart that Araibi has a permanent protection visa, stressing the thorough process Australian authorities undertake before issuing such a visa, according to SBS News.
|Human rights groups, football governing bodies and activists have made an international push for Thailand to release al-Araibi, 25, who plays for the semi-professional soccer club Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.
Human rights groups, football governing bodies and activists have made an international push for Thailand to release Araibi, 25, who plays for the semi-professional soccer club Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.
Former Australia captain Craig Foster said Monday at FIFA headquarters that Bahrain's formal request made Araibi's plight an emergency.
"We want it to be resolved this week, before Friday," Foster said after meeting with FIFA secretary Fatma Samoura.
The Asian Football Confederation called on Tuesday for the first time on Thailand's government to release the Bahraini player.
World governing body FIFA also released a statement on Tuesday in which Secretary General Fatma Samoura called on the Thai and Bahraini authorities to ensure Araibi could "go back safely to Australia as a matter of urgency".
Araibi has alleged he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain in 2012. He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shia faith and because his brother was politically active.
Bahrain has a Shia majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, and has a reputation for harsh repression since its failed "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011.
Hakeem also suspects that he is being sought by Bahrain because of critical comments he has made about Bahraini royal family member Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, who is also the president of the Asian Football Confederation and a cousin of the king.
Human rights groups believe Araibi risks being tortured if sent back to Bahrain.
Thailand has faced growing 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 inside a hotel room at the airport and live-tweeting her plight.
Amid international pressure heightened by social media attention, 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 visit her in Thailand after her flight.
After 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".
Foster and other activists campaigning for the footballer's release are using the #SaveHakeem hashtag along the lines of the #SaveRahaf campaign that secured her release, but Thailand's immigration chief has said the two cases are different and that there was an arrest warrant for Araibi.
Famous British ex-footballer and sports commentator Gary Lineker has tweeted in support of the campaign, while Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, president of Jordan's Football Association, called for the player's immediate release.
Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab